AstraZeneca: Vaccine Deliveries to Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines on Schedule

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Bangkok
2021-06-15
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AstraZeneca: Vaccine Deliveries to Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines on Schedule Thai medical workers monitor patients suffering from COVID-19 in Budsarakam Field Hospital in Bangkok, June 15, 2021.
Reuters

Deliveries of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to neighboring countries remain on track, the Thai branch of the Anglo-Swedish drug maker said Tuesday, effectively dismissing complaints about delays of shipments to Malaysia and the Philippines.

A statement sent to BenarNews did not, however, respond to questions about deliveries to Taiwan, whose president last week accused Thailand of delaying exports to prioritize vaccinations for its own population.

“Distribution to other Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia and the Philippines, will commence in the coming weeks and we are working closely with each of the relevant governments to supply our COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible,” the statement said.

“The delivery to the Philippines scheduled in July and Malaysia in June remain on track,” it said while not releasing the number of vaccines to be delivered, citing confidentiality.

The Philippines had expected 17 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses and Malaysia expected delivery of 610,000 in June and 1.6 million doses later this year, according to reports.

AstraZeneca has engaged Siam Bioscience Co. Ltd., a pharmaceutical company owned by Thailand’s king with no previous record of producing vaccines, to manufacture its COVID-19 vaccine in Southeast Asia.

Siam Bioscience delivered the first 1.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced domestically on June 4. The company did not say when the remaining 4.2 million doses promised to the Thai government would arrive.

It is understood that distribution from the same supply chain to other governments in the region, including Taiwan, will commence in the coming weeks, said a source at AZ who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Meanwhile, Nualphan Lamsam, director of communications for Siam Bioscience, did not respond to an email from BenarNews seeking comment. An employee who declined to give her name told BenarNews by phone that “the executives have no policy to talk about the business directly to the media.”

Thailand has some of the world’s harshest laws against criticizing or questioning members of the royal family.

Nualphan recently told reporters that it was up to AstraZeneca officials to comment on any export delays.

“Siam Bioscience produces vaccines for AstraZeneca which holds the rights to also export to eight ASEAN countries,” she said.

Millions of doses

In Taiwan, the government has ordered 10 million doses from AstraZeneca, mainly produced in Thailand, President Tsai Ing-wen said in the capital Taipei on Friday.

“The problem is that the goods that were supposed to have arrived in June have not,” Reuters news service quoted Tsai as telling a Taiwanese radio station.

“Now Thailand’s epidemic situation is serious and they are giving priority for vaccines to be used in Thailand.”

On Tuesday, an AstraZeneca spokesperson said the company did not have any specific response to Tsai’s comments but would share one with the media if it was available in the future.

On June 8, amid a spike in infections, Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told lawmakers that production problems at AstraZeneca’s Thai plant would delay supplies by a month.

The comment about delays echoed similar remarks in Malaysia and the Philippines.

Philippine presidential adviser Joey Concepcion told Reuters news agency he had been informed by AstraZeneca that a planned delivery of 1.3 million doses would be reduced to 1.17 million doses and delayed from the third week of June to mid-July.

Previously, Concepcion posted a tweet on May 3 where he said the AstraZeneca vaccines would be delivered in June.

In Malaysia, Khairy Jamaluddin, federal minister in charge of the National COVID-19 Immunization Program, said the expected delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccines has been delayed, but he did not comment on the expected arrival.

“I have been on calls for the last two to three days with AstraZeneca as well as other governments to make sure we can shore up supply for this month,” he told reporters during a news conference last week.

Meanwhile, news reports surfaced last week that Japan had donated 1.24 million doses of vaccines to Taiwan, infuriating China whose leaders consider Taiwan a province and have threatened to reclaim the island.

Thai officials, meanwhile, dismissed concerns about AstraZeneca’s exports to Taiwan. 

“As Thai Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said, Thailand is a production site for vaccines, but vaccine distribution is managed by AstraZeneca,” Tanee Sangrat, the spokesman for Thailand’s foreign ministry told BenarNews Tuesday.

“This [vaccine purchase] has no effect on Sino-Thai relations which remain cordial.”

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