Thailand sticks with AstraZeneca vaccine after safety scare

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 vaccinations in Basingstoke

By Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand will start using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday after a brief delay over safety concerns, officials said, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and cabinet members due to be first in line to get shots.

Thailand was on Friday the first country outside of Europe to suspend use of the AstraZeneca shot, on which its mass vaccination campaign is heavily reliant.

Authorities in Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands have halted their use of the vaccine over blood clotting issues, while Indonesia has decided to hold off until a World Health Organization review.

Thailand has much riding on the vaccine's safety and efficacy and the country will from June be one of its regional manufacturers. Thailand has reserved the first 61 million doses for its population.

Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said many countries had confirmed there were no blood clot issues from the AstraZeneca shot.

"The prime minister had expressed his intention and that he was ready to be given a vaccine to build confidence for the people," Anutin said in a statement.

He said an expert panel had agreed it should be administered and some senior medical professors would also receive it on Tuesday to demonstrate their confidence in the vaccine.

AstraZeneca said on Sunday it had reviewed data from more than 17 million people vaccinated in the United Kingdom and European Union, which showed "no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia".

Thailand has imported AstraZeneca vaccines in addition to 200,000 doses of Sinovac's CoronaVac. A further 800,000 CoronaVac doses would arrive on March 20, followed by a million more in April, health officials said.

Anutin on Monday said Thailand hopes to procure 5 million more CoronaVac doses and is negotiating with other vaccine manufacturers that can make deliveries before locally produced Astrazeneca shots are available.

(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Orathai Sriring; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Macfie)

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