Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the money would come from its emergency budget reserved for the procurement of the vaccine now being tested by the large British biopharmaceutical company, reported the Bangkok Post.
AstraZeneca is among a few companies ‒ the others are Pfizer and Moderna ‒ to have reportedly achieved strong efficacy for their COVID-19 vaccine projects.
The budget will go to two places: B2.379bn to the National Vaccine Institute for vaccine development and B3.59bn to the Disease Control Department for vaccine procurement and management.
Mr Anucha said the government would buy the vaccine from AstraZeneca since the Public Health Ministry had signed an MoU with the company and it had agreed to produce the vaccine in collaboration with Siam Bioscience.
The government has instructed the National Vaccine Institute to procure COVID-19 vaccine for 20% of the population or about 13 million people.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that the made-to order reservation ensured that Thailand would have access to the vaccine as soon as it received safety approval in the UK.
In addition, the contract with AstraZeneca allows Thailand to produce more vaccine at its own plant in Pathum Thani.
The government believes the arrangement will guarantee that the vaccine will be available to everyone needing it in Thailand – and neighbouring countries as well.
“We got the best price at US$5 per dose. If we had waited for the vaccine to be 100% complete, the price would’ve gone up to $20 a shot. The company says the efficacy is more than 90%, making us confident of its success,” Mr Anutin added.
The Ministry of Public Health signed an MoU with Oxford University and its partner AstraZeneca assuring it of special rights regarding use of the technology in a bid to make Thailand a regional hub for vaccine production and distribution.
Experts predict many countries to have supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of next year. The ministry expects to be able to supply half the Thai population within two years.