Moderna Vaccines To Be Available In October, With an Extra Charge

In this Wednesday, April 14, 2021 file photo, a pharmacist fills a syringe from a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Antwerp, Belgium. Photo: Virginia Mayo / AP
In this Wednesday, April 14, 2021 file photo, a pharmacist fills a syringe from a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Antwerp, Belgium. Photo: Virginia Mayo / AP

BANGKOK — Thailand is expected to roll out Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to people who are willing to pay for them this October, the Private Hospital Association said Friday.

The Moderna vaccine, which was approved for domestic use Thursday by the Thai Food and Drug Administration, is set to be offered by private hospitals as a paid “alternative” to the government’s free vaccinations. Up to six million doses will be imported through a government channel on behalf of the private sector due to legal restrictions, the association said.

“We have no intention of making profit out of it,” the Association’s secretary Paiboon Eksaengsri said. “The price is controlled by the government and it is set at 3,500 to 4,000 baht [per two doses]. We want the vaccines to cover as many citizens as possible.”

Despite being cleared by the FDA, a senior health official warned that hospitals may not advertise the service until the doses have finally touched down in Thailand. On Thursday, Camillian Hospital was forced to take down an advertisement which offered customers to pre-order two doses of Moderna vaccine for 3,500 baht.

“I instructed the legal department to look into the matter,” chief of the Department of Health Service Support Thares Krassanairawiwong said Thursday. “The advertisement was not approved by the department, so we asked the hospital to withdraw it.”

The commercial drive came amid continuing criticism of the slow pace of vaccinations in the country, where barely one percent of the population, or 708,300 out of around 66 million, has been fully vaccinated as of Friday.

The private sector’s effort to procure their own supply of vaccines began as early as December, but the plan was hit with bureaucratic hurdles and contradictory statements from key government officials, who insisted that vaccines could only be sold to the public sector.

The government eventually backed down last week as the country is facing the third wave of outbreak that has accounted for more than half of the country’s total confirmed cases and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic last year.

“Private hospitals are suggested to select COVID-19 vaccines that have different characteristics or brands from the ones being offered by the government,” government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said last Friday. “The National Vaccine Committee also asked for a price cap for privately-administered vaccines.”

Thailand is giving out shots of imported Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines to healthcare workers, volunteers, and vulnerable groups before the mass vaccination program can begin from June with up to 61 million doses of locally manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine.

Only vaccines manufactured by AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna have been approved for emergency use in Thailand, according to the Thai FDA, although the latter two have yet to arrive in the country.

Approval requests for India’s Bharat Biotech and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines are being reviewed by the country’s drug regulator. The government is also hoping to procure 5 to 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccines to meet its immunization target of at least 70 percent of the population by the end of this year.

Formally called mRNA-1273, the vaccine developed by American pharmaceutical Moderna used the same mRNA technology as Pfizer’s vaccine. The Moderna vaccine has been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization and in several countries.