BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s prime minister said on Tuesday his country had ordered an additional 35 million doses of the AstraZeneca Plc COVID-19 vaccine, bringing its total vaccine pipeline to 63 million doses.
After managing to largely contain community spread of the virus for months, a cluster of cases in December linked to migrant workers and a gambling den has led to infections in over half of Thailand’s provinces and a new round of restrictions.
The Southeast Asian country, which has reported a total of 8,966 COVID-19 cases and 65 deaths, aims to inoculate at least half of its 70 million population.
“Today, we made an additional order with AstraZenca for 35 million doses,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told a briefing.
In November, the government reserved 26 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine, which would be produced by Thai firm, Siam Bioscience, for local use and export.
The country will receive delivery from AstraZeneca ahead of schedule before the second quarter, Kiattaphum Wongrachit, permanent health secretary, said in a statement.
Thailand has also ordered 2 million doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech and expects the delivery of 200,000 doses next month.
The first delivery of the Sinovac vaccine will be administered among field workers in highly controlled areas like Samut Sakhon and Rayong, and vulnerable groups, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said, indicating the main areas where there have been clusters in the recent outbreak.
“There is a budget of 1.22 billion baht ($40.7 million) for procurement of the 2 million doses,” he said, adding 1.8 million doses will be delivered by April.
Sino Biopharmaceutical Ltd., a unit of Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, invested $515 million in Sinovac in December.
Thailand’s locally developed vaccine is set to enter the first phase of human trials in May, said Kiat Ruxrungtham, director of the Chulalongkorn University vaccine development programme, adding that he expects results for phase two in September.
(Editing by Martin Petty and Ed Davies)