Thailand’s vaccine chief again defended the government’s decision to join the World Health Organization’s COVAX alliance, arguing that the country obtained doses cheaper and faster by ordering directly from manufacturers.
Speaking in Parliament during the government censure debate, National Vaccine Institute Director Dr. Nakorn Premsri said the decision not to join COVAX was because of the alliance’s smaller supply and higher prices.
Nakorn was called on as part of the larger indictment against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis and his government’s botched vaccine-acquisition plan.
Opposition MPs Sompong Amornvivat and Prasert Chantararuangthong from Pheu Thai Party called the decision to bypass the COVAX sharing alliance a failure.
Similar to previous explanations given on June 10, the NVI director said the COVAX facility is mostly beneficial to low-income countries, which can get vaccines in this way at no cost to themselves. However, he noted, that is not applicable to Thailand, which must pay for the jabs, plus management fees.
Nakorn said most of the vaccines Thailand would have received through COVAX would be those produced for AstraZeneca in Thailand, but at a price higher than that being asked by the drugmaker itself. Thus, he said, joining the facility would not have been beneficial.
He then pointed out that vaccine deliveries via COVAX have faced delays and supply constraints due to the earlier surge of cases in India, which is a major manufacturing country.
The NVI chief said the 139 countries that joined COVAX have so far received 224 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, which is not a very large quantity. He said Thailand has secured more vaccine supplies directly from manufacturers than it would have with COVAX, and with greater reliability.
He said the Ministry of Public Health will continue focusing on placing vaccine orders directly with manufactures, however Thailand remains open to joining COVAX in the future should the situation changes.