Vaccines 'by June' if jab gets govt nod

Vaccines 'by June' if jab gets govt nod

Thailand could get the first batch of a Covid-19 vaccine in June at the earliest, if the jab developed by AstraZeneca is approved for mass roll-out, according to the National Vaccine Institute.

That is because Siam Bioscience Group was selected by the UK-based pharmaceutical firm as its regional partner to produce the vaccine for the Southeast Asian region, said NWI director, Nakorn Premsri.

AstraZeneca's experimental Covid-19 vaccine, which is being jointly developed by Oxford University, is said to have advanced the most in the race to produce an effective jab against the novel coronavirus, along with Pfizer's and BioNTech's vaccine candidates.

"We will get the first batch [of vaccines] by June if everything goes according to schedule," Dr Nakorn said at a press conference.

"As this won't cover the total amount of vaccines that we need, we also have agreements with other pharmaceutical companies with strong candidates to cover at least half of our population."

Siam Bioscience Group and AstraZeneca are expected to sign an agreement on technology transfer by the end of next month.

Founded by King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great in a bid to ensure the availability of medical supplies in Thailand, Siam Bioscience Group is known to have developed its own vaccine production plant.

In order for mass inoculation to have an effect, Thailand will need to secure 66 million doses for 33 million people. Siam Bioscience Group has said that it has the capacity to meet 20% of the demand.

In addition to producing the vaccine for domestic needs, Siam Bioscience Group will also be making vaccines for Asean countries. As such, the Ministry of Public Health has signed up to join Covax -- a global initiative involving over 20 vaccine developers from all over the world -- to ensure all demand can be met.

When asked about the progress of domestic vaccine development -- such as the one being developed by Chulalongkorn University -- Dr Nakorn said it is unlikely they can undergo the required human trials in Thailand due to the relatively low number of cases in the country.

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