Thailand's Ministry of Public Health on January 19 clarified about the cooperation between AstraZeneca and Siam Bioscience, confirming that the company had been chosen for its potential to transfer technology.

Permanent secretary for Public Health Kiattiphum Wongrajit said all health chiefs had come out to explain the situation amid accusations that the government had delayed the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, as it was expensive, and had failed to cover the public. The ministry was also accused of contacting only vaccine-maker AstraZeneca, which has a deal with Siam BioScience.

And deputy permanent secretary Supakit Sirilak said: “We are currently negotiating with many vaccine companies, but due to the need for confidentiality we have not made the details public. The procurement process may be a bit slow as we have to study the vaccine first. I would like to confirm that it is not too slow.”

National Vaccine Institute (NVI) director Nakhon Premsri said they were looking into information about the vaccine, not just the name of the company manufacturing it. Due to the emergency and the unstable situation, more information is needed for analysts to decide on the type of vaccine to use for Thai people. Decisions are to be made based not on the name of the company but the vaccine itself, he said.

“Our deal with AstraZeneca company isn’t just a regular vaccine deal, but also involves technology transfer during the crisis period. The company that receives knowledge of the technology needs to be qualified and ready for it.

“Only Siam Bioscience is capable of receiving the tech from Oxford University. Even Thai Pharmaceutical Organization does not have enough potential because of the use of modern technology,” said Nakhon.

He said many countries were trying to get a deal like this. The ministry, the NVI and SCG, as well as the government had collaborated in the negotiations and showed the potential of Siam Bioscience, which originally produced only biological material or drugs to increase blood cells in patients with renal failure. The vaccine production plant will get 500 million baht ($16.7 million) support from the government and 100 million baht from SCG to buy the required equipment.

“This success is built on a potential base. There is a misunderstanding about our support. I insist that it is our work in accordance with the philosophy of King Rama IX, under which Thailand has laid the health foundation and built medical expertise over 10 years. We will help Thai people access 26 million doses of vaccine and are negotiating for another 35 million doses to get enough vaccine,” said Nakhon.

Siam Bioscience was established in 2009 by Crown Property Bureau as part of King Rama IX’s vision and commitment to improve patients’ access to high quality and affordable medicines, to facilitate healthcare security and care for the health of Thai people.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that no vaccine has been registered by the administration yet.