Thailand signs deal with AstraZeneca for Covid vaccine

(Bangkok Post) – Thailand has signed an advance agreement with AstraZeneca to secure a supply of its Covid-19 vaccine and for local production with technology from the British-Swedish firm.

The agreement comes amid reports that AstraZeneca is preparing to conduct new global trials, after critics questioned aspects of an earlier trial that produced results showing up to 90% efficacy of the vaccine. However, CEO Pascal Soriot said he didn’t expect the additional trial to hold up regulatory approvals in the UK and European Union.

In addition to supplying the vaccine to Thailand, AstraZeneca will also support the local mass production of the doses by Siam Bioscience.

The number of doses to be supplied to Thailand was not disclosed. But Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Thursday that the contract was for the purchase of 26 million doses, enough for 13 million people, as each person needs two shots.

The multinational pharmaceutical manufacturer on Friday also signed a deal with the Philippines for 2.6 million shots of the vaccine. Malaysia, meanwhile, announced an agreement with Pfizer Inc to obtain enough of its Covid-19 vaccine to vaccinate 6.4 million people.

Opas Kankawinphong, the director-general of the Disease Control Department, and National Vaccine Institute director Nakorn Premsri represented Thailand in signing the deal with James Teak, president of AstraZeneca Thailand, at Government House.

Gen Prayut, who presided over the ceremony, expects the vaccine will be available next year and the government will be ready to give all people access to it, government spokesman Anucha Buranachaisri said on Friday.

The government has prepared a research and development fund for Thailand to produce the Oxford University-developed research vaccine locally in the fight against the coronavirus, the prime minister added.

AstraZeneca is currently in the last stage of vaccine trials before seeking final regulatory approvals for broad distribution of the long-awaited vaccine to end the outbreak of the virus that has crippled the global economy.

Siam Bioscience is a leading local pharma company involved in research and development of medicines, medical equipment and healthcare products. ACM Sathitphong Sukwimol, the company chairman, also witnessed the ceremony.

Thailand has been one of the most successful in containing the spread of the virus, with just 60 fatalities and 3,961 total confirmed infections as of Friday.

Mr Soriot, who joined the event via teleconference, praised Thailand for keeping the virus under control. He said the country’s vaccine production capacity in the future would also give other Southeast Asian countries access to the vaccine.