BANGKOK — Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul on Monday announced the first shipment of Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines will arrive in Thailand next week.
Anutin said 200,000 doses of vaccines developed by Sinovac will leave the manufacturing plant in China on Saturday and they will be flown into Thailand within Feb. 24 – though he added an ominous warning that the delivery could be delayed if there is any unforeseen complication.
“If nothing goes wrong, they will be sent to Thailand by Feb. 24,” Anutin said.
The minister said the shots could be administered within this month as soon as they pass inspection from the Department of Medical Services – a big if, since the vaccine has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, who has the final say over the matter.
But Anutin claimed the drug regulator has already confirmed to him that they got all the necessary documents.
“There’s no delay,” Anutin said. “Everything goes according to plan. We are trying to expedite it.”
Pledges about the country’s vaccination program are often made by health officials only to be broken days later.
The government previously said public registration for the vaccine would open within January, and the first doses would be given out to frontline health workers on Feb. 14. Neither came to pass. Anutin blamed supply disputes in Europe for the delays.
Thailand’s vaccine strategy relies mostly on AstraZeneca vaccines being produced domestically by Siam Bioscience, though the government is also importing vaccines from abroad to fill the gap before locally made vaccines could be rolled out.