Following reports of delays in fulfillment of orders from a Thai facility owned by the country’s powerful king, AstraZeneca said it is working closely with Southeast Asian governments to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine is delivered “as fast as feasible.”
Malaysia and Taiwan are the latest countries in the region to say they expect delays in AstraZeneca vaccine delivery made in Thailand.
“In the next weeks, distribution to other Southeast Asian nations, including Malaysia, will begin,” the business said in an e-mail to Reuters.
“We are working closely with each of the relevant governments to supply our COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible,” the AstraZeneca statement said.
It did not respond further to questions on the Thai plant’s current and anticipated future production levels.
AstraZeneca’s distribution plans in Southeast Asia depend on 200 million doses made by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by Thailand’s king that is making vaccines for the first time.
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.
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 in June and 1.6 million later this year, but its Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Wednesday “we are expecting some delay.”
A Philippine presidential adviser claimed last week that the initial delivery to the Philippines, which had been promised 17 million doses, had been lowered and postponed by several weeks.
Thailand received 1.8 million locally produced dosages and 200,000 imported from South Korea last week, with a total of six million doses expected in June.
In the past, AstraZeneca has had production and delivery issues in various parts of the world. A deal to set up production in Taiwan fell through, and the European Union has filed a legal challenge over a supply contract.