PH expects AstraZeneca Thailand deliveries to push through despite hurdles

The Philippine government said on Monday, July 26, that the country is expecting AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries from Thailand to continue despite feared production shortfalls.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion gave the update on Monday, days after Thailand floated the possibility of imposing curbs on shipments abroad. Concepcion said it appears the "Thailand situation is in control."

"Everything is okay. Exports are pushing through," Concepcion said. 

AstraZeneca earlier admitted that the launch of its vaccine production in Thailand had been "complicated," after reported delays in doses to be supplied locally and to other Southeast Asian countries.

James Teague, managing director of AstraZeneca Thailand, said the company is "scouring" global supply chains to find additional vaccines for Southeast Asia, including Thailand.

The comments came after a leaked letter showed the drugmaker offered to supply 5 to 6 million doses a month to Thailand – a figure lower than the 10 million doses Thai officials cited publicly in the past.

Responding to queries on possible curbs on exports from Thailand, AstraZeneca representatives in the Philippines said, "We are actively working with the government in Thailand and governments across Southeast Asia to continue to deliver equitable vaccine access to the region."

The drugmaker previously said vaccine doses for Southeast Asia would come from a plant of its Thai partner Siam Bioscience, owned by Thailand's king and a first-time vaccine maker.

Along with the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are relying on vaccines from Thailand. Taiwan also has an agreement to purchase Thai-manufactured AstraZeneca doses. 

The production hurdles come as Southeast Asia faces a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant. Governments have been looking to speed up inoculation as many remain unvaccinated.

Most recently, Philippine health officials announced local transmission of the Delta variant and called on local governments to prioritize the vaccination of senior citizens and persons with comorbidities.

Aside from Thai-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines, the Philippines has received AstraZeneca doses from the COVAX global sharing facility, as well as Sinovac, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Sputnik V vaccines.

The Phlippines purchased 17 million AstraZeneca doses, largely through tripartite deals signed between the drugmaker, national government, and private sector or local governments. Of this amount, some 1.17 million doses have arrived. – with reports from Reuters/Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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