Spain's mighty effort to help Thais

Spain's mighty effort to help Thais

Ambassador says vaccines are on the way, writes Poramet Tangsathaporn

The Spanish embassy in Bangkok celebrated its National Day on Oct 12 by delivering 614,500 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Thailand. It will also supply 2.7 million doses of Pfizer vaccines as requested by the government.

In an exclusive interview with the Bangkok Post, Emilio De Miguel Calabia, the Spanish ambassador to Thailand, said the embassy also regarded the vaccine supply as humanitarian aid because the shipment arrived shortly after the government had asked Spain for help.

"Thailand had contacted us," he said. "You know, Thailand and Spain have a close relationship.

"As soon as we received the request, we started checking the doses and the schedule of arrival.

"The government said they were not looking for donations and they were ready to buy them. So, we sold them to Thailand at a cheap price. It is around €2.90 [about 112 baht] a dose," he said.

The cabinet decided to procure 614,500 doses of AstraZeneca in September. The shipment of the vaccines arrived in Thailand on Oct 6.

The government had also requested 2.7 million doses of Pfizer from Spain. The ambassador said the Pfizer arrival date has yet to be confirmed.

"But the vaccines that we had already scheduled for Spain, instead of coming to Spain, will go directly to Thailand," he said.

Spanish National Day falls on Oct 12 every year, a day in which the Spanish celebrate key historical moments such as when Italian explorer Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas and claimed the land for Spain. He said the commemoration of national success was important.

"Commemorating our national day is important but I think in the 21st century, we need to realise that we are interlinked with other nations and in the end, humanity is the most important expression of nationality. So, the Spanish use this expression to Thailand to celebrate our nationality," he said.

The Spanish government is one of the key contributors to the Covax scheme. They are likely to supply 30 million doses in all.

"Covid-19 taught us that everything is interrelated," he said.

"It began in China but in the end, everybody was concerned about it.

"Therefore, we cannot be safe from Covid-19 if everyone in the world is not safe. In this sense, international solidarity is the way out of this pandemic.

"It is not a time to talking about vaccine diplomacy. It is the moment to be speaking about saving lives."

It was hard to get the vaccines for Thailand as many were to be allocated under the Covax scheme.

"We had to push a lot and when a window of opportunity opened, we worked with the Thai embassy in Madrid and were able to close the deal."

He said there was concern about the vaccines' efficacy as some news agencies had reported that the expiration date indicated on the AstraZeneca vaccines was Oct 31.

The embassy later confirmed the expiration date, yet still emphasised their efficacy would be 100%. "There is no political or economical ambition behind these vaccines," he said.

"Most countries realise the best way to fight Covid-19 is through vaccination. No government would use a vaccine they did not trust."

"It is important to trust health authorities as they make sure the vaccines are valid and efficient. Jabs can save people's lives and keep them from ICU. However, it will be up to local authorities as to when to roll out the vaccines."

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