BANGKOK, July 15 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca (AZN.L) has asked Thailand to extend the delivery deadline of 61 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine by five months, a deputy minister said on Thursday, a decision likely to go further. disrupt the slow roll-out of vaccines in the country.
The reported demand indicates a slow ramp-up in production at its local manufacturing partner, which had initial production and delivery issues, although AstraZeneca has assured it will be back from this month to comply. its supply commitments to Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries.
The comments come a day after Thailand said it was considering restricting exports of locally produced AstraZeneca vaccines to tackle its own crisis, raising concerns over vaccine protectionism. Read more
Dispute in Thailand marks another setback for the drugmaker which had other production issues earlier and is in a legal battle with the European Union over shipping delays, while its vaccine has been linked to rare cases of blood clotting.
Deputy Health Minister Sathit Pittacha told MCOT TV station that AstraZeneca had asked to delay delivery of the promised 61 million doses to Thailand from its Thai production facility from December this year to May. 2022.
AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sathit’s statement.
Sathit also said the drug maker has the capacity to produce 15 million doses of vaccine per month at Siam Bioscience’s production facility it contracts with in Thailand and that capacity may increase in the future.
AstraZeneca now promised to deliver 40% of what is produced at this facility to Thailand, Sathit said, adding that Thailand would ask the company for more doses.
“We have to negotiate with them because in this situation we need more vaccines,” Sathit said.
“We want 10 million doses because the original plan was 10 million doses,” he said with reference to the previous monthly delivery target.
Thailand is suffering from its worst COVID-19 outbreak to date and reported a record 98 coronavirus deaths on Thursday, bringing the total death toll to 3,032 since the pandemic began last year.
It also reported 9,186 new infections, bringing the total number of cases to 372,215.
Deployment of the main vaccine in Thailand started last month and only about 5% of its more than 66 million people have been fully immunized.
POSSIBLE EXPORT BORDERS
Sathit’s comments on the monthly production of 15 million doses are among the first clear statements of the production of Siam Bioscience, which has been shrouded in a veil of secrecy.
The company is 100% owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, and Thai officials have long dodged questions about whether it was not meeting production targets. Thailand has strict laws against insulting the monarchy that punish offenders up to 15 years in prison.
Responding to a request for comment on possible export restrictions, AstraZeneca said Wednesday evening that its vaccine made in Thailand “is of critical importance” to neighboring countries where the pandemic is also accelerating.
“We are actively working with the Thai government and governments across Southeast Asia to continue to provide equitable access to vaccines in the region,” he said.
AstraZeneca does not make its distribution agreements public, but its website says its Thai production would supply several countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. Taiwan has also reached an agreement to purchase AstraZeneca vaccines made in Thailand.
“We continue to closely observe and pay attention. We also maintain close contact with AstraZeneca,” Taiwanese Deputy Health Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan told reporters.
He said that aside from 117,000 AstraZeneca vaccines that arrived from South Korea earlier this year, the remainder of their direct order from the company for 10 million doses came from Thailand.
An Indonesian health ministry official said “there does not appear to be any impact” in AstraZeneca’s shipment in light of possible restrictions on Thai exports.
Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei and Stanley Widianto in Jakarta; Editing by Ed Davies and Ana Nicolaci da Costa
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