Covid-19 vaccine purchase contract to be signed Friday

Covid-19 vaccine purchase contract to be signed Friday

PM hails step forward in battle against epidemic

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announces the government will on Friday sign a contract for the purchase of a Covid-19 vaccine that can be produced locally. (Screenshot from his video)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announces the government will on Friday sign a contract for the purchase of a Covid-19 vaccine that can be produced locally. (Screenshot from his video)

A forward contract to acquire a Covid-19 vaccine that can be produced locally will be signed on Friday, marking the next step forward in the battle against the virus, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Thursday.

The prime minister gave the details in a video posted on the government's Facebook page on the eve of the contract signing between the National Vaccine Institute and vaccine developer AstraZeneca Plc.

The contract is for the purchase of 26 million doses, enough for 13 million people.

Gen Prayut said the world was suffering a worst-case scenario, with the Covid-19 pandemic claiming a large daily death toll, the World Health Organisation warning of a possible third wave, and lockdowns in many European countries.

Cooperation from all parties and the management of resources by his government had  prevented an uncontrollable Covid-19 situation that would otherwise have overloaded the national health system and impacted on the treatment of people with other illnesses, Gen Prayut said.

"We are preparing for the next phase in managing the Covid crisis, so that it does not do even greater damage to our country's economy and to people's livelihoods.

"The long-term solution to overcoming the crisis of the Covid pandemic is the availability of a vaccine and its adequate distribution to people," he said.

There were 3-4 groups of vaccine producers likely to succeed and big countries were trying to reserve vaccines. "Thailand, too, must be able to get sufficient doses of a successful vaccine early," Gen Prayut said.

"That is why, a few months ago, I made the decision for Thailand to seek to partner in vaccine production with an eminent vaccine research group as a way of securing a vaccine early."

The government's efforts bore fruit last month when it signed a contract with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca to produce a vaccine in Thailand and to receive the production technology.

"And tomorrow [Friday], we will sign a further agreement for the purchase of the vaccine," he said.

The prime minister said that the vaccine the two organisations were developing showed a very good efficacy rate of 70-90%.

Gen Prayut said the vaccine would be relatively cheap and suitable for Thailand. It could be stored at 2-8°C, which allowed for convenient nationwide distribution.

Vaccines from other producers must be stored at between -20°C and -70°C , and this would mean transport difficulties.

"We expect this vaccine to be properly certified, approved for use and in production by the middle of next year. The sooner we can advance this timetable, the sooner we can open our doors to large numbers of visitors and begin the task of rebuilding our economy," the prime minister said.

Pending local vaccine production, the country could still celebrate festivals but people should continue to help contain Covid-19 by regularly wearing face masks, washing their hands and observing social distancing, Gen Prayut said.

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