Thailand to receive first AstraZeneca vaccines in February after approval

Bangkok, Jan 22 (efe-epa).- Thailand will receive in February the first 50,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca after it was approved amid controversy involving a local company linked to the king, health authorities reported Friday.

Lertchai Lertvut, director of the Food and Drug Administration, told EFE that another 150,000 doses of the vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish company were approved for usage Wednesday and will arrive in the following months. The approval, in force until January 2022, applies to 35 million doses.

On the other hand, AstraZeneca plans to manufacture another 26 million doses in Thailand through Siam Bioscience, a company linked to King Vajiralongkorn, under an agreement that has been questioned by prominent opposition leader Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit.

Thanathorn, who said Siam Bioscience has no prior experience in vaccine manufacturing and that Thailand is not diversifying its vaccination strategy enough, was charged Wednesday with violating the country’s draconian lese majeste law.

This controversial law, which has been used against at least 54 people since July, including student leaders and even a minor, carries penalties of between three and 15 years in prison for those who threaten, defame or insult the royal family.

Thanathorn, leader of the disbanded Future Forward anti-junta party, has accused the government of using the lese majeste law to silence critics, while authorities justify its use to protect the monarchy.

The government has also said Siam Bioscience was chosen by AstraZeneca for the manufacture of vaccines due to its capacity and technological availability.

AstraZeneca’s drug, developed jointly with the University of Oxford (UK), is not as effective as those from Pfizer or Moderna, but it is easier to store and distribute as it does not require storage temperatures as low as these.

The vaccine has been approved for emergencies in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Hungary, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, among others.

The authorization for emergency use is a special measure to allow medicines or vaccines that have not been definitively approved to be applied in health emergencies such as the current pandemic.

This authorization is usually granted when the drugs have passed the three clinical trials for their development, although before being validated by further scientific studies, after making sure that the benefits outweigh and outweigh the risks. EFE-EPA


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