Dr Nakhon Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute (NVI), said that Thai people will get their first jabs of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford by mid-2021 at the earliest.
The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford will be produced locally at the manufacturing plant of Siam Bioscience Group, located in Pathum Thani.
The Thai government is working with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to jointly produce the vaccine at a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant of Siam Bioscience Group near Bangkok. Siam Bioscience Group was selected by the UK-based pharmaceutical firm as its regional partner to produce the vaccine for the Southeast Asian region.
Dr Nakhon told media on Tuesday he was confident that the British pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca will get vaccine approval soon from the United Kingdom’s Food and Drug Administration after the announcement about the vaccine was made early this week.
Explaining the production timeline, Dr Nakhon said it is now under the technology transfer process provided by the company. After that, the plant will commence the first batch of production for the process to submit the finished vaccine for the Thai Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval in March.
“If the vaccine gets approval from the Thai FDA, we will start our production for the public by the middle of next year. We are confident that the vaccine made by AstraZeneca will shortly get approval from the UK-based FDA, as it has a high efficacy rate of 70% that is higher than the WHO’s requirement of 50%,” he said.
The vaccine-makers announced that while the vaccine showed an average of 70% effectiveness, the level jumped to 90% depending on the dosage.
About 3,000 people were given a half dose and then a full dose four weeks later, with data showing 90% were protected. In the larger group, given two full doses also four weeks apart, the efficacy was 62%.
With the raw materials directly shipped from the company, the vaccine will be produced made-to-order by the Department of Disease Control (DDC).
The department says that it requires two million doses per month from the plant, which can, at full capacity, produce 15 million doses per month.
Dr Opas Kankawinphong, acting director of the DDC, said that the government would spend 3.7 billion baht to prepare for the vaccine’s transportation and storage, and its monitoring system as well as on a far-reaching campaign to raise public awareness about how to get the vaccine.
He said the COVID-19 vaccine will be the most extensive vaccination programme ever in Thailand.
“Giving 26 million doses of vaccine to over 13 million people is unprecedented in Thailand. The largest we ever provided was five million doses of a flu vaccine. So we need to make everything work, especially when it comes to creating awareness among the public,” he said.