One million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Chinese state-owned Sinopharm will arrive in June and be offered as a paid alternative for particular groups who don’t want to wait, the Chulabhorn Royal Academy (CRA) announced yesterday.
Dr Nithi Mahanonda, the CRA secretary-general, said that as the vaccine will be procured with the academy’s budget, it could not be offered free of charge.
The private sector or any agencies which are at risk and want to speed up the process for their staff can contact the academy, Dr Mahanonda told a press conference.
The price of the vaccine will not exceed 1,000 baht per shot, including insurance, said Dr Mahanonda.
On Thursday, the CRA announced the plan to procure a supply from Sinopharm vaccine, manufactured by the Beijing Institute of Biological Product Co, as an alternative to the two formulas from Sinovac and AstraZeneca that are currently being relied on.
The announcement came as a surprise for many in the country, where private hospitals have been pushing the government for months to cut red tape and allow them to import vaccines through their own sources.
Most people assumed that the imports would be offered free of charge as an adjunct to the state vaccination programme.
“As I have clarified, this is another choice. I do not think that members of the public can come to receive it or it may get mixed up with the state vaccines,” said Dr Mahanonda.
“This supply is being reserved to help alleviate current shortages among high-need groups and enable the Public Health Ministry to give some schools and private sector businesses another avenue to secure protection for their pupils and employees.”
A number of organisations have already made inquiries about buying doses of the vaccine, including the Federation of Thai Industries and PTT Plc, according to Dr Mahanonda.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday made the Sinopharm formula the fifth coronavirus vaccine to be approved so far in Thailand, FDA secretary-general Paisarn Dankum told a news conference.
The other four vaccines are made by Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sinovac. Applications to register two more COVID-19 vaccines – Sputnik V from Russia and Covaxin from India – are also in the process of gaining approval, he said.
Mr Dankum said registration of COVID-19 vaccines was governed only by safety and efficacy and these recent approvals showed that the FDA is not preventing private companies from registering vaccines for use in Thailand.
Regarding reports that Accap Assets Co is also looking to sell 20 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to the CRA, the FDA secretary-general said the company had yet to receive the required permit to import and distribute COVID-19 vaccines domestically from the FDA.