Local administrations can purchase Covid-19 vaccines and conduct their own vaccination campaigns, provided approval is given by the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul says.
Mr Anutin was speaking after Somnuek Thanadechakul, the mayor of Nakhon Nonthaburi Municipality, approached the ministry asking to buy vaccines directly from it to immunise local residents.
The mayor reportedly said the municipality would fork out 260 million baht to purchase vaccines directly from the ministry, adding that there were scores of local administrations ready to follow suit.
"The government plans to provide free jabs to the public but it is alright too if a local administration wants to use state-allocated funds to launch their own vaccination drive. It is good that local administrative bodies want to help. What they need to do is check with the authorities because there are certain rules and regulations to comply with," he said.
He said local administrative bodies must use their allocated budget to purchase their own vaccines if they want to launch their own campaign and not use stocks from the government's free jab campaign.
The government next month intends to provide two million free doses to front-line health officials, volunteers and high risk groups.
In May, it would launch a mass free jab drive using 60 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZenaca vaccine with the goal of creating herd immunity in at least 50% of the population.
As of now, there are only two vaccines -- the Oxford University/AstraZeneca shot and the other produced by China-based Sinovac -- registered in Thailand.
Mr Auntin said he had invited other pharmaceutical companies and importers to register vaccines with the Thai FDA for purchase by the private sector.
"However, these companies say they will not register their vaccines in Thailand unless authorities guarantee to place an order comprising a certain amount," he said.
FDA secretary-general, Paisarn Dunkum, insisted that vaccines must be registered by his organisation, even if they have been approved in other countries.
"The FDA needs to protect consumers. We need companies to register so we can trace importers and companies if safety issues arise," he said.
He said the vaccine registration process requires companies to provide details on testing and pertinent medical data on risks that will be useful for the Ministry of Public Health to use to deal with potential side effects and medical problems.
The FDA will assess the safety, quality and efficacy of every Covid-19 vaccine up for approval, the doctor said.