BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand will receive 61 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine this year, a government spokesperson said on Monday, as the Southeast Asian country rushes to vaccinate its population amid a surge in coronavirus infections.
Thailand is AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing hub for the region, but has been slow to obtain enough shots to inoculate its population. About 9% of Thailand’s 66 million people have been fully vaccinated.
“This is good news, it will help create herd immunity faster. This will take pressure off the health care system, help people return to their normal lives and speed up economic recovery,” government spokesperson Anucha Burapachaisri said in a statement.
Last month, health officials said that AstraZeneca had asked to delay deliveries of its order of 61 million doses to May 2022.
The news that the doses would arrive sooner than expected followed a meeting between Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, and AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot, Anucha Burapachaisri said.
The delivery would bring Thailand’s total vaccine supply for 2021 to over 120 million doses, of which 61 million from AstraZeneca and a combination of 30 million doses of China’s Sinovac and 30 million from Pfizer-BioNTech.
Thailand will buy an additional 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine next year, Anucha added.
Thailand has reported 1,066,786 coronavirus infections and 9,562 deaths since the pandemic began. Over 97% of those cases and deaths have been detected since April this year.
In addition to buying more AstraZeneca vaccines, Thailand also has plans to 50 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 2022, according to the health ministry.
(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboosarng; Editing by James Pearson)