Coronavirus: Asia

AstraZeneca working with govts to ensure delivery of vaccine shots

BANGKOK • AstraZeneca says it is working closely with South-east Asian governments to ensure its Covid-19 vaccine is supplied "as quickly as possible", after delays in deliveries from a Thai plant owned by the country's powerful king.

Malaysia and Taiwan this week became the latest in the region to warn they expected delays in deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Thailand.

"Distribution to other South-east Asian countries, including Malaysia, will commence in the coming weeks," the company said yesterday. "We are working closely with each of the relevant governments to supply our Covid-19 vaccine as quickly as possible."

AstraZeneca's distribution in South-east Asia depends on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience, a company making vaccines for the first time.

Questions about the drugmaker meeting production targets are sensitive because King Maha Vajiralongkorn is its sole owner. Insulting Thailand's monarchy is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Siam Bioscience in January said it had an estimated production capacity of 200 million doses per year, an average of 15-20 million doses per month.

The Thai company and AstraZeneca have not revealed total production goals nor commented on whether the plant has missed its targets.

Malaysia had been due to receive 610,000 doses from Thailand this month and 1.6 million later this year, but Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Wednesday he is "expecting some delay".

Thailand, which expects to receive six million doses this month, last week received 1.8 million locally produced doses and 200,000 from South Korea.

AstraZeneca has previously run into production and delivery problems in other parts of the world.

A deal to set up production in Taiwan did not materialise and it is also facing a legal challenge by the European Union over a supply contract.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2021, with the headline 'AstraZeneca working with govts to ensure delivery of vaccine shots'. Subscribe