Royal-backed Thai institute to import Chinese vaccine

Royal-backed Thai institute to import Chinese vaccine


BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai research agency associated with the country’s royal family said Friday that it will purchase and import a coronavirus vaccine made by China's Sinopharm, expanding the country's options at a time when the government is facing criticism for the pace of its inoculation campaign.

Dr. Nithi Mahanonda, secretary general of the government-funded Chulabhorn Royal Academy, said Beijing-based Sinopharm had committed to delivering an initial shipment of 1 million doses in June, although the price was still being negotiated. He said it would be sold at cost to organizations in the public and private sectors.

The distribution channel will be separate from the government's free vaccination program, which has faced criticism because of its inadequate supplies and perceived disorganization as the country faces its largest surge of the pandemic.

So far, just about 3.3% of the country’s roughly 69 million people have received at least one vaccine dose. The government has secured just 7 million vaccine doses in total.

The government has been negotiating to get more supplies that would allow it to fully inoculate about 70% of the population by the end of the year. Its plans earlier this year would have allowed only about 45% of the population to be inoculated.

The Chulabhorn Royal Academy granted itself the authority to procure coronavirus vaccines, medicines and medical equipment under a notice published late Wednesday in the royal gazette. The academy is named after Princess Chulabhorn, sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The announcement came as a surprise for many in the country, where private hospitals have been pushing the government for months to cut red tape and allow them to import vaccines through their own sources.

It was also surprising as the Sinopharm...

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