PM set to ink vaccine deal
AstraZeneca contract 'next virus fight step'
An advance contract to acquire a Covid-19 vaccine that can be produced locally will be signed today, marking the next step forward in the battle against the virus, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.
He 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 the worst-case scenario, with the Covid-19 pandemic claiming a large daily death toll, the World Health Organization warning of a possible third wave, and lockdowns in many European countries.
Cooperation from all parties had prevented an uncontrollable Covid-19 situation that could have overloaded the national health system and affected the treatment of people with other illnesses, Gen Prayut said.
"We are preparing for the next phase in managing the Covid crisis, so 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 is the availability of a vaccine and its adequate distribution to people," he said.
There were three to four 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 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 [today], we will sign a further agreement for the purchase of the vaccine," he said.
The prime minister said the vaccine the two organisations were developing showed an efficacy rate of 70% to 90%.
Gen Prayut said the vaccine would be relatively cheap and suitable for Thailand's needs as it fights the epidemic. It could be stored at 2C to 8C, which allowed for convenient nationwide distribution.
Vaccines from other producers must be stored at between -20C and -70C, 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 premier said.
"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 added.
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, he said.