The cabinet has approved a proposal to procure 20 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
It has also given the green light for another proposal to import the Moderna vaccine as an alternative choice, as well as a plan to import 10.9 million more doses of the Sinovac jab.
The director-general of the Department of Disease Control has therefore been authorised to negotiate with the supplier of the Pfizer vaccine and sign a purchase contract on behalf of the government, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said after Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.
At this point about 20 million doses will be purchased in a contract whose details still could not be revealed for the time being, said Mr Burapachaisri.
The cabinet has also approved a draft agreement between Thailand and the US on the latter’s offer to supply Thailand with an additional amount of Pfizer shots, he said.
As for the Moderna vaccine, seen as an alternative choice for people who are willing to pay for the vaccinations that will be arranged for them by private parties, the cabinet has approved a proposal for the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) to go ahead with negotiating with the vaccine supplier and sign a purchase contract accordingly, he said.
In order to supply the national COVID-19 vaccination drive with more vaccines, the cabinet has also approved a proposal to procure 10.9 million more doses of the Sinovac jab at a cost of 6.1 billion baht, he said.
While continuing to administer the Sinovac vaccine to more people to prevent them from falling ill or dying of COVID-19, the government will continue its search for more supplies of vaccines made using different development technologies, he said.
Hopefully, by the second quarter of next year, all 150 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be administered to the people as planned, he said.
Between this month and next, the government’s mass vaccination programme will be focused mainly on four groups of priority people who most need to be inoculated, he said.
They are medical and healthcare workers, people with underlying medical conditions, people aged 60 and over, and state personnel working to contain COVID-19 or handling COVID-19 infected patients, he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that some vaccine purchase deals require non-disclosure agreements since the terms and prices were different for each country.
The Pfizer vaccines to be ordered soon are unlikely to be the first batch to be shipped to Thailand. Some officials of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) had said earlier that 1.5 million doses donated by the US would arrive this month and next month.
Udom Kachintorn, an adviser to the CCSA, said that mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, or AstraZeneca, which is a viral vector type vaccine, would be used on some 700,0000 health workers as a booster shot after this group had been fully vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine earlier. The next group to receive it would be those at risk – the elderly or those with seven underlying conditions.
“The priority is to give a booster shot to some 700,000 fully vaccinated medical workers, who received their second shots three to four months ago. The booster shots could be Pfizer – if it arrives in time – or AstraZeneca,” Dr Kachintorn said.
He added that a local study on eight people showed a person who had had a severe allergy to the Sinovac vaccine after the first shot who then got a second shot of AstraZeneca developed eight times more antibodies than those who got two Sinovac jabs.
He added that a working group had been assigned to monitor the new generation of vaccines likely to come out early next year.
The cabinet also approved a proposal to offer soft loans totalling 2 billion baht to business operators affected by the government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions, said Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.
Intended mainly for operators of restaurants and all other types of eateries, the new loan programme will be handled by the Government Savings Bank, he said.