The premier was informed by Acting Chinese Ambassador to Thailand Yang Xin that the vaccines manufactured by Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech have been approved for exports and that the doses will be delivered “as soon as possible”.
The announcement followed recent media reports which said China’s drug regulators have given Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine conditional market approval.
Mr Anucha said the update was relayed by Mr Yang during a courtesy call with Gen Prayut, in which the premier extended his well-wishes for the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays.
Gen Prayut told Mr Yang that Thailand is committed to securing the doses it needs to ensure the national vaccination programme runs smoothly.
To date, the government has purchased 26 million doses from the UK-based AstraZeneca and two million doses from China’s Sinovac. Recently, the government reserved an additional 35 million doses from AstraZeneca.
Mr Anucha said the prime minister congratulated China on its COVID-19 response and reaffirmed the country’s readiness to work with Beijing on economic and social rehabilitation.
Mr Yang told the prime minister that Thai-Chinese relations have continued to grow despite the COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting the sustainability of ties between the two nations.
According to Mr Anucha, both sides also agreed to pursue deeper economic cooperation especially on e-commerce and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project.
30 million Thais to be vaccinated this year
Meanwhile the Ministry of Public Health is pledging to have 30 million Thais vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the year.
“If everything goes to plan, we can start administering at least five million doses per month and later, up to 10 million doses per month, to complete 61 million doses in 2021,” Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, chief of the Department of Disease Control (DDC), said yesterday.
“This is the largest vaccination programme in our history and we need to get all our staff ready to do the job.”
The DDC is preparing to soon launch the mammoth three-phase programme, with two million doses given by the end of next month. The second and third phases will follow from June onwards, using 61 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The way ahead has become clearer since news broke that Chinese health officials recently approved the vaccine for general public use, paving the way for the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speedily approve its second vaccine for emergency use.
The FDA last month already approved the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University/AstraZeneca. The first 200,000 doses should arrive this month and will be given to people in high-risk areas, especially Samut Sakhon province, the epicentre of the recent infection outbreak.
It is envisaged that 20,000 doses of the initial batch will be administered to frontline health workers. The remaining doses will be given to high-risk groups in Samut Sakhon, including those aged over 60, patients with non-communicable diseases, and vulnerable groups.
A total of 600,000 doses are planned next month for high-risk people in maximum-control provinces, plus provinces bordering Myanmar and areas in the South; 200,000 doses will be used as second jabs for those in the first group.
One million more doses are due to arrive in April, of which 600,000 will be given as second jabs and 400,000 reserved for those in urgent need.
Dr Opas was confident 50% of the population would be vaccinated this year and said the injections would be performed at thousands of public and community hospitals.
Central storage sites at the Department of Disease Control and the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) will be responsible for distributing the vaccine nationwide.
The Public Health Ministry has also developed what it is calling an Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI), a mandatory process to trace the vaccine’s side-effects and efficacy.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the country will use more than one or two vaccines.