James Teague, managing director of AstraZeneca Thailand, released an open letter to Thais yesterday (July 24). “I want to assure you that for us, there is no higher priority than manufacturing vaccines that can protect you and your loved ones, as fast as possible,” he wrote.
According to Mr Teague, AstraZeneca vaccine is a “biologic” product that starts with growing “living” ingredients. The manufacturing process is complicated. The number of doses in each “harvested” batch is never completely certain, especially in the early stages of a new supply chain.
“Even with that context, our projections show that in months with uninterrupted manufacturing we can supply five to six million doses in Thailand,” he said.
By the end of July, AstraZeneca will have delivered 11.3mn doses, as part of its overall commitment to deliver 61mn doses to Thailand. As of now, the company has delivered 9mn doses, with 2.3mn to be supplied to the Ministry of Public Health next week.
“We are delivering in the fastest possible timeframe. However, given the gravity of the Delta variant, we are leaving no stone unturned to accelerate supply further still,” he said.
“Together with our manufacturing partner, Siam Bioscience, we have initiated efforts to optimise the manufacturing process and we believe that in months with good ‘harvests’, we will be able to deliver more.”
The company is also scouring the 20-plus supply chains in its worldwide manufacturing network to find additional vaccines for Southeast Asia, including Thailand.
“A global supply crunch for COVID-19 vaccines and shortages of the materials and components required to produce the vaccine, make it difficult to provide certainty today, but we are hopeful of importing additional doses in the months ahead,” he wrote.
“COVID-19 is the biggest public health crisis of our generation. We at AstraZeneca see it as our duty to help, and thousands of our employees, and those of our partners, have devoted their lives this past year to do so.
“We do this at no profit during the pandemic because we believe that’s the right thing to do.”
Red Cross deal with Moderna importer signed
Meanwhile, the Thai Red Cross Society (TRCS) has sealed a deal with the importer of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to directly procure the second-generation of the Moderna vaccine next year.
Tej Bunnag, secretary-general of the TRCS, said yesterday the TRCS has reached a deal with the local importer of the Moderna vaccine to import the second-generation of its vaccine starting from next year, which would help TRCS procure more effective vaccines for people.
“This way, the TRCS will have more flexibility in its effort to improve public access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” Mr Tej said.
Currently, the TRCS is importing the COVID-19 vaccine through the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO).
Mr Tej also provided an update on a plan to distribute the vaccine to local administration organisations that had previously requested doses for five vulnerable groups.
The groups comprised disabled people, bed-ridden patients and pregnant women.
The TRCS said they had stopped receiving requests from local organisations to tend to these groups.
At the time, the requested volume of the vaccine had already exceeded the quota the TRCS was given, he said.
The TRCS is now capable of finding the vaccine for at most 500,000 people, while there actually are about 11 million underprivileged people who need help with COVID-19 vaccinations, Mr Tej said.
The GPO last Friday signed a contract with Zueling Pharma Co that represented ZP Therapeutics Zueling Pharma Thailand.
It was for a deal to import a total of 5mn doses of the current generation of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from the fourth quarter of this year to the first quarter of next year.