Leaked letters show AstraZeneca’s vaccine commitment not as Thailand claims
BANGKOK, July 19 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) has told Thailand it should be able to deliver around 6 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine per month, according to a leaked correspondence, contradicting claims by Thai officials that the government is owed $ 10 million.
Thailand’s demand for 10 million monthly doses comes as it plans to impose vaccine export restrictions on vaccines made in Thailand to bolster domestic supplies, a move that could create problems for its neighbors, including some are struggling with similar or more severe coronavirus attacks. Read more
But a June 25 letter from AstraZeneca to the Thai Minister of Health showed that the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker had offered to deliver only 5-6 million doses per month to Thailand from a local factory, or a third of the quantity produced by its partner Siam Bioscience, which belongs to the King of Thailand.
“I hope you will be happy that this is almost double the volume we discussed at our meeting,” AstraZeneca vice president of international affairs Sjoerd Hubben said in the letter, referring to a September 2020 meeting with Thai officials.
At that meeting, Thai government officials estimated that Thailand needed around 3 million doses per month, Hubben wrote.
The correspondence was first reported by the Isara news agency and then seen by Reuters.
The idea that Thailand is restricting exports of locally produced vaccines first surfaced last week as the country suffers from a crushing new wave of coronavirus, with a record number of cases several days in a row. Read more
Thailand has only vaccinated 5.2% of its population of over 66 million so far.
Deputy Health Minister Sathit Pittacha said last week that AstraZeneca had requested delays for the 61 million doses it had promised Thailand by the end of 2021. The pledge would have enabled Thailand to administer 10 million doses per month this year, he said. . Read more
“We want 10 million doses because the original plan was for 10 million doses,” Sathit said.
A source with knowledge of AstraZeneca’s Thai deal said the 61 million doses, or about a third of the local plant’s agreed output, would be delivered to Thailand as a whole, but no monthly volume commitments are made. had never been agreed. Reuters did not consult the entire agreement.
The director general of Thailand’s Department of Disease Control, Opas Karnkawinpong, confirmed on Sunday that the June 25 letter was genuine. He told reporters that the 3 million figure was a rough estimate and that Thailand had formally requested AstraZeneca in April 2021 to provide 10 million monthly doses.
He did not say whether AstraZeneca had agreed to this, and said it was understood that vaccine availability was production dependent and the volume might have to be agreed on a monthly basis.
AstraZeneca made no comment on the leaked letter on Monday.
The letter also detailed AstraZeneca’s supply commitments for nearly 114 million doses elsewhere in Asia – a supply chain that has become uncertain due to potential export restrictions imposed by the Thai government.
It planned to deliver 50 million doses to Indonesia, 30 million to Vietnam, 16.5 million to the Philippines, 10 million to Taiwan and 6.4 million to Malaysia, according to the letter.
Opposition lawmaker Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn said Thai authorities were neither prepared for a global supply shortage nor for the severe impact of the worrisome variants.
“The government was overconfident about the situation when drawing up these plans,” he told Reuters on Monday. “They were very slow and careless.”
Written by Martin Petty; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jane Wardell
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