The Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) will handle the imports of the vaccine on its behalf, Jirayu Huangsap and Teerat Samretvanich, Bangkok MPs of the opposition Pheu Thai Party, said yesterday.
While discussing the budget for the Public Health Ministry, the House panel probing the 2022 budget bill asked for details about the agreements with vaccine suppliers but was told they included non-disclosure clauses.
“We are not comfortable recommending approving the budget so we asked the Thai Red Cross Society whether it’s possible for it to import some vaccines,” Mr Jirayu said.
Tej Bunnag, secretary-general of the Thai Red Cross Society, told the committee his office had concluded talks to import 1mn Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses, Mr Jirayu said.
On how soon the vaccine will arrive, Mr Tej said that depended on the GPO.
As of now, he expected it to come at the same time as the 5mn doses of the Moderna vaccine which the GPO planned to order on behalf of private hospitals.
The GPO said on Wednesday it would sign a supply agreement with the Moderna representative in Thailand on July 23 for a batch of jabs ordered for 285 private hospitals.
It did not mention the 1mn to be bought for the Thai Red Cross.
In the meantime, the GPO will sign contracts with the hospitals and accept their payments, a process expected to be concluded by July 21.
It is supposed to act as an intermediary in such cases.
The shipment will likely arrive in the fourth quarter of this year or the first quarter next year, GPO deputy director Sirikul Metheeveerangsan said on Wednesday.
The Red Cross is one of at least five health-related state agencies authorised to import vaccines.
According to the June 8 announcement of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration, only the National Vaccine Institute, Disease Control Department, GPO and Chulabhorn Royal Academy or state agencies can purchase or collaborate to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.
Companies cannot import vaccines unless they work with these agencies.
In fiscal 2021 ending on Sept 30 this year, the Red Cross was allocated a budget of B8.9 billion, according to Budget Bureau documents.
THG insists Pfizer deal to be signed
Meanwhile, The Thonburi Healthcare Group (THG) has decided to postpone the signing of a contract to import 20mn Pfizer vaccine doses to today.
THG chairman Boon Vanasin yesterday said a 40-page contract detailing the purchase was being studied by legal experts. The process was time-consuming and could not be done by yesterday as planned, he said.
His postponement came amid criticism the deal did not really exist. Dr Boon, however, insisted that after the contract’s signing, the first lot of 5mn doses of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine will be shipped to Thailand by the end of this month.
THG limits the amount to 5mn doses because it wants to see whether the order will face problems, as the vaccines need to be kept at -70º Celsius, he said.
Germany’s BioNTech told Reuters earlier yesterday it was not in talks with Thonburi Healthcare Group Plc.
“We are not in negotiations with the company you mentioned,” BioNTech said. However, it did not say if a state entity might be involved.
Dr Boon earlier announced a plan to import 20mn mRNA vaccine doses from BioNTech and said they would be imported by two state agencies authorised to procure the jabs.
He declined to name which one would act on behalf of the private sector.
Currently, there are five agencies allowed to procure vaccines for distribution, including the Government Pharmaceutical Organization, the Chulabhorn Royal Academy and the Thai Red Cross Society.