Thailand to give COVID-19 vaccines to neighbors

With an agreement already signed to manufacture Astra Zeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in Thailand, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said last week that Thailand will distribute life-saving doses to neighboring Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam when production starts in mid-2021.

“Thailand would classify COVID-19 medicines and vaccines as public goods so that people in the Mekong sub-region would have equal access to them at reasonable prices,” Prayut said.

He announced Thailand’s intention during a virtual ACMECS Summit, the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy. The group is named after the three major rivers coursing through the five member countries.

Thailand has responded effectively to its COVID-19 outbreak with 60 deaths and less than 4,300 cases from January through December 2020. The Kingdom’s robust public health system and early actions to control the spread of the virus have saved the country from more dire consequences.

Some of Thailand’s neighbors are striving to contain the coronavirus through continuous development of their public health systems in order to reach as many of their citizens as possible.

Thailand has obtained permission to manufacture the Astra Zeneca vaccine once it becomes available, and the government said it expects to vaccinate 13 million Thais by mid-2021.

Producing and distributing the vaccine to neighboring countries is both generous and in Thailand’s public health interest. Border areas are porous and illegal migration is a long-standing issue. The few cases of local transmissions in recent weeks were traced to people who crossed borders.

Meanwhile, in Bangkok, Chulalongkorn University has begun a fundraising campaign to build a factory on its campus to produce COVID-19 vaccines for local distribution. Chulalongkorn is home to one of the leading hospitals and medical schools in the Kingdom.

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