KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia and Taiwan are expecting deliveries of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines manufactured in Thailand to be delayed, officials said this week, the latest among several countries and territories to report a holdup with orders from the Thai plant.
Malaysian Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin did not specify how long the deliveries would be delayed or how many shipments would be affected.
The delay comes amid questions over AstraZeneca’s vaccine distribution plan in Southeast Asia, which depends on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand’s king that is making vaccines for the first time.
Any questions about Siam Bioscience 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.
AstraZeneca has so far handed over 1.8 million locally produced doses to Thai authorities and last week said more were on the way during June, but deliveries to other South-east Asian countries would begin only in July.
Siam Bioscience did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday (June 9).
The first delivery to the Philippines, which was promised 17 million doses, was reduced and postponed by several weeks, a Philippine presidential advisor told Reuters last week, citing Thai production delays.
Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told lawmakers on Tuesday that orders from AstraZeneca would be delayed by a month due to production problems at the firm’s Thai plant.
Taiwan ordered 10 million shots directly from the company but has so far only received slightly more than 100,000 doses.
Malaysia, which is due to receive 610,000 doses from Thailand this month and 1.6 million more later this year, is also expecting delays.
Malaysia has purchased 12.8 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, half through the Covax vaccine-share facility and the remainder directly from the drugmaker.