The vaccine stockpiling law should be enforced to ensure the country has at least 10 million doses per month of locally produced AstraZeneca vaccines for use in the next three months, says Prasert Auewarakul, deputy dean for Research of Siriraj Hospital’s Faculty of Medicine.
Dr Auewarakul said the next three months will be a major turning point for the national vaccination campaign when enough vaccines put the government in a better position to bring down COVID-19 infections and fatalities.
He asked people to join a mass signature petition via Change.org calling for the government to invoke the law on national vaccine security to limit exports of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured by Siam Bioscience. With fewer vaccines being exported, there will be more left for domestic inoculation.
Even though vaccine supplies have risen due to foreign donations and an increase in procurement, the boost is only short term. In the next two to three months, the country could face a heavy vaccine shortage if no more stocks are obtained, he said.
Dr Auewarakul said a straightforward step now was to temporarily reduce or cease vaccine exports by Siam Bioscience and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is authorised to enforce the vaccine security law.
Siam Bioscience has the capacity to produce 10 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine a month. If the law was applied, the country would have between 20 million and 30 million doses available for local immunisation in the next three months, he said.
“We would then be able to better equipped to contain the pandemic and push down fatalities,” Dr Auewarakul said.
Dr Auewarakul admitted suspending exports would impact other countries which ordered the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, he believed the effect would be minimal as, unlike Thailand, these countries do not rely on AstraZeneca as their main vaccine.
Meanwhile, about 20 million people have been vaccinated so far, according to Dr Sirirerk Songsivilai, permanent secretary for higher education, science, research and innovation.
He said the last 10 million doses were administered within 36 days or 3.4 times faster than the first 10 million jabs.
To date, 23% of the population has received their first dose, 6.7% two doses and 0.3% their third. Phuket is the most vaccinated province at 75% of the population, followed by Bangkok at 70%.