Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Thai-made AstraZeneca vaccines causing delays across Southeast Asia

Questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are sensitive because King Maha Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner.

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AstraZeneca says it is working closely with Southeast Asia governments to ensure its Covid-19 vaccine is supplied “as quickly as possible”.

The reassurance comes after reported delays in deliveries of orders from a Thai plant that is making vaccines for the first time.

Malaysia and Taiwan this week became the latest in the region to warn they expected delays in deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Thailand.

“Distribution to other Southeast Asian countries will commence in the coming weeks,” the company said in an email to Reuters. “We are working closely with each of the relevant governments to supply our vaccine as quickly as possible.”

AstraZeneca’s vaccine distribution commitments in Southeast Asia depend on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience.

Siam Bioscience in January said it had an estimated production capacity of 200 million doses per year, an average of 15-20 million doses per month.

Neither the Thai company nor AstraZeneca has revealed total production goals or commented on whether the plant has missed its targets.

Questions about Siam Bioscience meeting production targets are sensitive because King Maha Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner.

The first delivery to the Philippines, which was promised 17 million doses, was reduced, and postponed by several weeks, a Philippine presidential adviser said last week.

AstraZeneca has previously run into production and delivery problems in other parts of the world.

A deal to set up production in Taiwan did not materialise, and it is also facing a legal challenge by the European Union over a supply contract.

Thailand, which is experiencing its third and deadliest wave of Covid-19 outbreaks, anticipated receiving six million doses for June. Last week it received 1.8 million locally produced doses and 200,000 imported from South Korea.

The AP has reported that Thailand’s much-anticipated Covid mass-vaccination campaign launched on Monday.

The Thai government’s vaccination efforts have come under strong criticism, particularly because of its reliance on vaccines produced by Siam BioScience.

Monitoring the company too closely is fraught with difficulty because of Thailand’s lese-majeste law, which forbids insulting the monarchy

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