Thailand to begin human trials for Covid-19 vaccine in March

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that the programme started its research in mid-2020 and tests on animals showed good results. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand will begin clinical trials of a locally developed Covid-19 vaccine in March, making it the nation's first inoculation programme to enter human trials.

The programme, led by the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation, Mahidol University and the Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health, started its research in mid-2020 and tests on animals showed good results, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Wednesday (Feb 10).

"Thailand isn't just relying on one source for vaccines. We're actively looking for ways to procure the shots, including producing them ourselves," Mr Anutin said, adding that if the human trials are successful, the state drug manufacturer will be able to produce 25 to 30 million doses of the vaccines per year.

"We're not placing our bets on one horse, what we're doing now is owning a whole stable," Mr Anutin said.

Thailand has so far secured 63 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from foreign manufacturers.

The authorities will use two millions doses from Sinovac Biotech between March and May, and 61 million shots of AstraZeneca vaccines to be produced locally by Thai monarchy-backed Siam Bioscience from June, according to Dr Nakorn Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute.

The state drug organisation's clinical trials are expected to take about six to eight months, with the first and second phases conducted in Thailand, and the third phase in a country with an ongoing outbreak, according to the Health Ministry and Mahidol University.

The first two phases of trials will each have more than 200 Thai volunteers, officials said.

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