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Thai princess allows new vaccine imports as slow rollout prompts anger

Berita 24 English -  The Thai king's sister has approved the import of coronavirus vaccines by an institution she sponsors, bypassing th...

Berita 24 English - 
The Thai king's sister has approved the import of coronavirus vaccines by an institution she sponsors, bypassing the government as it grapples with rising infection rates and mounting public outrage over a slow and disorganized rollout.

According to the secretary-general of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy's Facebook page, the "alternative vaccines" would supplement the government campaign until the country's needs were met.

The government, which has long insisted on handling all vaccine imports, will launch a mass vaccination campaign next month, relying heavily on AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured locally by a king-owned company.

The announcement in the official Royal Gazette surprised some in the military-backed government, as Thailand is currently experiencing its worst COVID-19 outbreak to date and growing unease about the vaccine plan.

The decree, issued late Tuesday, increased the Chulabhorn Royal Academy's capacity to respond to coronavirus outbreaks. It was signed by Princess Chulabhorn, the organization's chairwoman and King Maha Vajiralongkorn's youngest sibling.

"The Royal Academy will procure 'alternative vaccines' until domestically produced vaccines reach a level of protection sufficient to prevent outbreaks," its secretary-general, Nithi Mahanonda, wrote on Facebook, adding that it would adhere to import and registration regulations.

Minister of Health Anutin Charnvirakul stated that he was unaware of the royal order before its publication.

"I saw the announcement last night," Austin said during a local television interview when asked about it.

"However, if it benefits the country, we are prepared."

The Chulabhorn Royal Academy, which includes a hospital and a research institute, has scheduled a news conference for Friday to discuss its purported importation of Sinopharm's vaccine. Thailand is expected to grant emergency use of the Chinese vaccine this week.

It was unclear at the time how many vaccines the academy would import.

Thailand's government expects to have 6 million AstraZeneca doses and 3 million Sinovac doses available next month, as it begins its main drive to vaccinate 70% of the country's over 66 million people by year's end.

Other private hospitals intend to purchase ten million doses of the Moderna vaccine via a state-owned company.

Authorities reported 47 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, setting a new record for the second consecutive day, bringing the total to 920, with 141,217 cases overall.

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