US 'here for Thais in time of need'

US 'here for Thais in time of need'

US Chargé d' Affaires on why deep cooperation is key to tackling Covid-19

"We now see our friends in Thailand enduring hardship, and we want to do everything we can to help you save lives and recover from this outbreak," said Michael Heath, Chargé d'Affaires of the US Embassy in Thailand.

The first batch of 1.5 million Pfizer vaccine doses donated by the US is scheduled to arrive in Thailand on Friday under a US government (USG) Covid-19 assistance programme. Michael Heath, Chargé d'Affaires of the US Embassy in Thailand, answered written questions, asking him about US support for Covid-19 vaccine distribution.

What is the US's main policy for helping Thailand with vaccine distribution and other measures to fight Covid-19?

The US is proud to donate 1.5 million safe and effective Pfizer vaccine doses to the people of Thailand. These vaccines are scheduled to arrive on July 30. We are also proud to confirm the US will provide an additional one million vaccine doses to Thailand -- on top of the doses that will arrive on July 30 -- for a total of 2.5 million doses.

We went through a terrible experience with Covid-19 during the past year and lost many lives. We now see our friends in Thailand enduring hardship, and we want to do everything we can to help you save lives and recover from this outbreak.

The US is helping lead the world out of this pandemic, building a world that is safer and more secure against the threat of infectious disease.

Our vaccines do not come with strings attached. Simply put, our goal is to save lives and put an end to this pandemic. But we know that none of us are safe until all of us are safe. As such, we are happy to hear that the Thai government has committed to distributing these vaccines equitably to all residents and prioritising those most at risk.

We have stood in solidarity with Thais by providing Covid-19 assistance since the start of the outbreak. For over 60 years, the US and Thailand have worked together to address critical issues affecting public health. This vaccine dose donation is our latest effort to help Thailand recover from this devastating global pandemic.

We have also donated ventilators, respirators, surgical masks, goggles, and other protective equipment to Thai doctors and nurses and provided assistance to support refugees in border camps.

Apart from the 1.5 million doses of Pfizer vaccine, are there any more Covid-19 vaccines that the US will donate to Thailand or help it procure more vaccines from US companies?

We are working hard on getting more vaccines for Thailand. The US is committed to donating additional doses to nations in need as supply becomes available. I am not able to speculate on procurement since those deals are made between the Thai government and private pharmaceutical companies.

This is a unique moment in history, and it highlights American leadership. We will continue to do all we can to build a world that is safer and more secure against the threat of infectious disease.

In sharing Covid-19 vaccine doses, the US seeks to maximise and equitably share the number of vaccine doses available with the greatest number of countries. We would like to see those vaccines distributed to those who are most at-risk within countries, particularly health care workers on the front lines, the elderly, and people with underlying medical conditions. I am happy to see that Thai health officials share these priorities.

Aside from donating vaccines, we are committed to standing with the Thai government and its people until we overcome this pandemic together. We will continue to find ways to strengthen our health partnership.

How will the US share lessons it has learned in fighting Covid-19? In the US cases have started to decline and some states have begun to live a normal life.

I'm proud to say that US and Thai health partners have been sharing lessons learned for over 60 years. It is a two-way street. As we learn more about Covid-19 variants and generate more data about treatment and vaccine science, we will pass on information. Fortunately, we already have the mechanisms in place. Our US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office (CDC) here in Bangkok works side-by-side with Thai scientists and health experts at the Public Health Ministry.

You may have heard that our Thai and American soldier-scientists at the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) are doing research together to test a new Covid-19 mRNA vaccine being developed by Chulalongkorn University researchers. Our USAID (US Agency for International Development) colleagues work directly with Thais and provide technical assistance where it is needed most, including strengthening diagnostic and testing capacity for at-risk communities.

The Thai government says it has signed agreements with Pfizer and Moderna for vaccines. Is it possible for the US to help broker negotiations with other vaccine companies to bring more vaccines to Thailand?

We are thrilled to see that these safe and effective mRNA vaccines are helping to bring an end to this global pandemic. The US is working with US vaccine manufacturers to scale vaccine production for the world. We are also investing in local vaccine production, working with partners including investment entities, pharmaceutical companies, and other manufacturers. These efforts include a Quad Vaccine Partnership between the US, India, Japan, and Australia that is committed to expanding local production for at least one billion safe and effective doses of Covid-19 vaccines in 2021 and 2022.

Do you have any suggestions for the Thai government in fighting Covid-19?

All governments, including Thailand and the US, will come away from this experience with an incredible amount of data and with lessons learned about how to prevent and respond to future pandemics.

Those governments that are transparent and open to learning will be the ones that have the best chance of preventing future outbreaks. Our deep health cooperation with Thailand, including science, education, and technical exchanges, will play a strong role in our victory over Covid-19, and the next pandemic.

The US believes in a multilateral approach to global health security, which is why we support the WHO (World Health Organization) plan for its Phase 2 study into the origins of the virus, which commits to ensuring these studies are scientific, transparent, expert-led, and free from interference. To deal with this pandemic -- and the next one -- we need global cooperation and transparency.

What do you think about the Thai government's handling of Covid-19 measures and vaccination programme?

I applaud the work which Thai doctors, nurses, public health officials, and others are doing to help defeat Covid-19. The US has incredibly strong health partnerships with Thailand, and my CDC, AFRIMS, and USAID teams are fortunate to work side-by-side with these heroic Thai doctors, nurses, and health workers.

No government is immune from criticism during this historically unprecedented pandemic, including my own.

But we have to focus on what is important, and that is to cooperate to save lives and contain this virus so we can emerge stronger on the other side. Thailand is our friend, ally, and partner. We will not abandon you in your time of need.

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