Thailand launches coronavirus vaccination campaign as cases surge

Thailand will launch its Covid-19 immunization program on Monday, mostly focused on the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab produced at Siam Bioscience, a company owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn and has never produced a vaccine.

The rollout is risky for both the Prayut Chan-ocha government, which is facing growing public and corporate anger over delays in making vaccines available, and AstraZeneca, which has chosen Thailand as its production hub in Southeast Asia.

Siam Bioscience will produce 200 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, including for export.

Thailand competes with a Increase in infections From about 2,000 to 4,000 new cases reported per day – the highest since the start of the pandemic.

Like its peers in the region Vietnam And the TaiwanThe kingdom reduced the number of reported Covid-19 infections to zero in 2020. The rise in cases has been blamed on more infectious variants of the coronavirus that have spread rapidly in markets, prisons and labor camps.

But there were signs of production delays at Siam Bioscience. Filipinos He said Last week, the first batch of 17 million doses from Thailand was delayed and downsized.

Separately, the Rural Physicians Association of Thailand claimed that the government was importing 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from South Korea to make up for production shortfalls. Some Thais have reported being told to expect vaccination dates in June only to be notified later that they have been postponed.

Thai government last week received delivery 1.8 million doses of the vaccine from AstraZeneca, the first of 6 million vaccines scheduled to arrive this month. It insists the rollout is on schedule but a government spokesperson declined to answer a question from the Financial Times about whether it would use strikes imported from South Korea alongside those made locally. Siam Bioscience declined to comment, and the Thai office of AstraZeneca did not respond to a request for comment.

The Thai Enquirer, an outspoken online publication, last week called Siam Bioscience an “international embarrassment.”

“until the Serum Institute of India “It has issues, so it would be a mistake to expect everything with its debut Siam BioSense product to go silk smooth,” said Paveda Bananund, professor of international business at Thammasat Business School, referring to the Indian vaccine maker. Being more frank.”

With the number of infections soaring early this year, the Thai government has been accused of over-reliance on a single vaccine made in its first vaccine product. More recently, it has moved to subsidize earning supplies from alternative suppliers including Sinovac, the Chinese drugmaker, BioNTech/Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, the US drugmaker.

The freedom of Thais to criticize Siam Bioscience is restricted by the fact that Billionaire King Owns ItAnd making remarks that are insulting to the royal family is a criminal offence.

Thanthorn GwangroungruangkitThailand’s most prominent opposition figure was charged with computer crime in January after comments online about what he called the “royal vaccine”.

The power and wealth of Thailand’s 69-year-old king have come under extraordinary criticism from last year’s youth-led participants democracy protests.

Reporting by Rain Jirnowat in Bangkok

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