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Thailand set to boost COVID-19 vaccinations, expects to approve Moderna shots - Metro US

Thailand set to boost COVID-19 vaccinations, expects to approve Moderna shots

FILE PHOTO: Eerily empty, Thai tourist island Phuket desperate to reopen

By Orathai Sriring and Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) -Thailand expects to offer the Moderna vaccine to most of its population soon as it steps up the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, a health official said on Saturday.

The latest drive comes amid growing public criticism of the slow rollout of free vaccinations offered by the government, which stands at 1.73 million shots so far – less than 1% of its population.

Health authorities have yet to start mass vaccinations even as the tourism-reliant country struggles with a third wave of infections.

The government expects 61 million shots of AstraZeneca to be produced locally from June. But these vaccinations and those from Moderna will not be offered free.

Moderna last month applied for vaccine registration in Thailand, which should be approved soon, said Withoon Danwiboon, head of the Government Pharmaceutical Organization.

“What we expect from Moderna is its commitment on how soon they will bring in their vaccine,” he said.

India’s Bharat Biotech has started the application process for vaccine registration while China’s Sinopharm has yet to apply, he said.

Thailand has so far approved the vaccines of Sinovac Biotech, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thailand would try to secure more vaccines, on top of existing orders of about 65 million.

“Our current target is for 100 million doses of vaccines, but Thailand should have 150 million doses or more,” he posted on his Facebook page on Saturday.

Thailand’s latest outbreak has been exacerbated by the highly transmissible UK coronavirus B.1.1.7 variant, leading to more than 52,000 infections and 288 fatalities in just over five weeks.

On Saturday, 2,419 new coronavirus cases were reported, with 19 new deaths.

($1 = 31.04 baht)

(Reporting by Orathai Sriring and Panarat ThepgumpanatEditing by Shri Navaratnam)

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