Thailand COVID Vaccine Producer Confirms Major Production Shortfall, Delay

Thailand's COVID-19 vaccine producer has confirmed major production shortfalls and a delay in its ability to fully deliver 61 million vaccines, the Associated Press reported.

The original plan was to get at least 70 percent of the country's 69 million people vaccinated by the end of this year, but the goal has been pushed back until next May. Thailand has recently struggled with record-high daily increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths with the Delta variant running rampant.

Deputy Health Minister Sathit Pitutacha said in an interview with MCOT Television that the company in charge of making the vaccines, AstraZeneca, asked for until next May to complete the delivery and the government will still negotiate for as much monthly supply as possible.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

AstraZeneca Confirms COVID Vaccine Shortfalls, Delays
The plan to vaccinate 70 percent of Thailand's population by the end of the year has been pushed back to next May as AstraZeneca faced shortfalls in delivering vaccines. Pictured, people wait in line to receive the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at Central Vaccination Center in Bang Sue Grand Station on July 13, 2021 in Bangkok. Sirachai Arunrugstichai/Getty Images

Pitutacha said that according to AstraZeneca, the current production capacity of the factory operated by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand's king, is 15 million doses per month, and that AstraZeneca has agreed to provide 40 percent of that to Thailand. Sathit said production could increase in the future.

The government had previously announced that local production of the AstraZeneca vaccine would supply Thailand with 6 million doses in June, 10 million doses each month from July to November, and 5 million doses in December for a total of 61 million doses this year.

Siam Bioscience was awarded a license by AstraZeneca last year to be a regional production hub supplying eight other countries despite having no experience in manufacturing vaccines.

The government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has been widely criticized for failing to secure timely and adequate vaccine supplies, and has been scrambling to obtain vaccines in addition to Sinovac and Sinopharm from China and the locally produced AstraZeneca. The government says it now has agreements to also buy from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Thai health authorities said Wednesday they will seek to impose limits on exports of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine because the country doesn't have enough for its own needs. They did not specify what the limits might be.

Dr. Nakorn Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute, said its vaccine committee agreed in principle to issue an order temporarily limiting exports, but did not give any details. The order would be issued by designating it a matter of national security.

India, the world's biggest vaccine producer, banned vaccine exports earlier this year when it was hit by a devastating coronavirus outbreak.

Thailand has administered 13.53 million doses of vaccine to 10.16 million people, or 14.74 percent of the country's population. About 3.37 million people, or 4.89 percent of the population, are fully vaccinated.

The slow pace of vaccinations, hindered by supply problems, threatens the government's plan to kickstart a recovery of Thailand's key tourist industry by allowing the entry of vaccinated travelers without requiring them to quarantine on arrival starting in mid-October.

AstraZeneca Confirmed COVID Vaccine Shortfalls, Delays
Health workers administer shots of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the Central Vaccination Center in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, July 15, 2021. As many Asian countries battle against a new surge of coronavirus infections, for many their first, the slow-flow of vaccine doses from around the world is finally picking up speed, giving hope that low inoculation rates can increase rapidly and help blunt the effect of the rapidly-spreading delta variant. Sakchai Lalit/Associated Press