Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has personally vowed to support Thailand’s COVID-19 battle and will therefore be selling it his country’s Sputnik V vaccine.
The PM revealed on his Facebook page that Putin had agreed to make the Sputnik jabs available to Thailand via a “government-to-government” contract.
Gen Chan-o-cha also invited the private sector, including the Federation of Thai Industries, the Thai Bankers’ Association, and the Thai Chamber of Commerce, to a meeting next Wednesday to discuss ways they could help secure more vaccines.
All this came on the same day as it was announced that American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer had agreed to sell Thailand 10 million doses of its vaccine.
Gen Chan-o-cha said the Russian breakthrough came after he instructed the Foreign Ministry to try to secure purchases of the Sputnik V vaccine.
He said the ministry had since been told Putin had promised to support Thailand because the two countries had long-established friendly ties and the scheme would serve to further strengthen them.
Gen Chan-o-cha said he had ordered the Public Health Ministry to negotiate with the supplier of the Sputnik V vaccine and iron out details of the agreement.
The announcement of Putin’s personal intervention came just two days after deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra offered to help Thailand secure more COVID-19 vaccine from Russia during a live broadcast on the audio-based social networking app Clubhouse.
Mr Shinawatra criticised the sluggishness of the government’s vaccine rollout and suggested more should be purchased from a wider range of producers, not just Sinovac and AstraZeneca.
The former premier also suggested that high-profile business people in Thailand had the capability and extensive connections to secure more vaccines with manufacturers in countries like China and Russia.
He even offered to personally talk to Mr Putin in order to secure a deal for the Sputnik V vaccine for Thailand.
Gen Chan-o-cha was clearly irritated when told of Thaksin’s offer on Wednesday. “I don’t know him. Just leave him be,” Gen Chan-o-cha said. “I won’t answer that. Don’t relay a question from someone who is not even in the country.”
Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced on Thursday that Pfizer’s representatives had agreed to sell 10 million doses of the company’s vaccine for Thailand, even though he could not specify when the delivery would be made.
Mr Charnvirakul said the ministry was ready to revise its regulations for vaccine procurement, even though Pfizer’s vaccine had yet to be registered and approved for use locally.
A total of 2.12 million doses of two vaccines – AstraZeneca and Sinovac’s CoronaVac – have been delivered to Thailand and are being distributed across the country to priority groups, including medical personnel and those in high-risk areas.
The mass rollout is expected to begin in June when the first six million doses of the locally-made AstraZeneca vaccine are rolled out. Ten million doses are expected in the next five months and another five million doses in December.
There were 1,470 new infections and seven deaths on Thursday, increasing overall deaths to 117 out of 48,113 infections.
Gen Chan-o-cha vowed on Wednesday that the government would purchase 35 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to the 65 million already being procured.
If the vaccine procurement and rollout goes as planned, Thailand will have at least 100 million doses and achieve its immunisation goals.