Thailand’s public-health minister defended the 6-billion-baht allocated for the first phase of the country’s coronavirus vaccine purchase plan, explaining the budget also covers the drug’s entire delivery system and research.
Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said following Tuesday’s Cabinet approval of the budget that those claiming Thailand is paying more to reserve Covid-19 vaccine doses from AstraZeneca than other countries are misinformed.
Anutin explained that the cost covers operations, vials and syringes, in addition to the vaccine itself. There is also an agreement with AstraZeneca and Oxford University on joint investment and development that can allow the vaccine to be locally produced.
Oxford has adopted a value-based pricing strategy, and is not seeking to make a profit. It is selling the Covid-19 vaccine to Thailand at the cost price of US$5, or about 150 baht, per dose.
Competing vaccine candidates from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. cost up to $25 per dose.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate has more than cost advantages for Thailand. Unlike the Pfizer or Moderna drugs, the AstraZeneca vaccine does not need to be kept a super-cold temperatures. Instead, it can be stored in normal refrigerators for extended periods, allowing easier deployment in middle-income countries like Thailand and in hot climates.
Meanwhile, the Thailand Hospital Administrators’ Association has convened its annual academic conference to discuss medicine, vaccine and laboratory development during the Covid-19 crisis.
It was held to enhance healthcare management competency, while promoting such issues as an important part of the country’s health policy.
Dean of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital Dr. Prasit Watanapa presented trends in medical innovation development in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said a strategy has to be implemented, starting with a reduction in the number of patients through vaccine development, efficient clinical testing and artificial intelligence augmentation, through to improving the quality of medical tools and equipment so that they can be exported.
An antiviral drug has to be developed on par with favipiravir, or the quantity has to be sufficient to meet national demand. The quality of personal protective equipment suits, medical masks and other protective equipment for healthcare workers must also be further improved.