Thai government confirms it received Indian vaccine offer last year in December

Thai Enquirer has learned this week that despite receiving an offer from the Indian government to supply Thailand with vaccines since mid-December, the government has not moved forward with any purchasing plan but chose instead to rely on Chinese-made and locally produced vaccines, delaying the country’s frontline workers access to protection. 

The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with representatives from the Indian government twice, once in December and once again on January 23, a Saturday, to discuss the vaccines, according to Tanee Sangrat, the Director-General of the Department of Information.

Tanee denied an earlier Thai Enquirer report that said the MFA rejected the Indian government’s offer and said that the ministry expressed interest both times and referred the issue to relevant government organs

“The MFA sent a note to agencies concerned in late January. I believe the coordination among [the] Thai side is ongoing,” he told Thai Enquirer.

It is unclear whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs relayed the same message during the earlier meeting in December. 

Inquiries to the Ministry of Public Health were not returned. 

According to sources in the Indian Government in Delhi, a meeting between representatives of their government and the Thai government did indeed take place in December.

However, the source said that they were unaware of a meeting between the Indian government and the Thai government in late January but was adamant that between December and late January, the Thai side did not follow up any interest.

“There was no communication from the Thai government to express any interest,” the source told Thai Enquirer.

A worker unloads a box containing Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine manufactured in India, at the Department of Health Services in Kathmandu on January 21, 2021. (Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP)

Vaccine Diplomacy

The Narendra Modi government has pledged to give or sell at-cost millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines to neighboring countries over the next few weeks in a gesture of goodwill.

Myanmar has already begun its inoculation program this week using vaccines from India with front-line workers receiving the first doses.

With both the Indian Government and the Thai Government confirming that contact had been made in December, had the Thai government followed through with interest after the initial meeting, it is likely that the first batch of vaccines from India would have arrived in Thailand before or at the same time as Myanmar’s.

Thailand’s vaccination program, meanwhile, has become a political issue with members of the opposition questioning the government’s lethargy over the issue.

The local AstraZeneca-licensed variant, while already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, will be produced exclusively by Siam Bioscience and will not be ready for distribution until at least April, according to the government.

The Chinese-made SinoVacs Vaccine, which is partly owned by the Thai CP Group, will arrive in Thailand in February. It will need to pass FDA approval and will likely not be ready until mid-next month.

Indian Ambassador Suchitra Durai told Thai Enquirer previously that the Indian government was ready to supply Thailand with vaccines should there be interest.

“India and Thailand have close and friendly relations and many countries across the world, including many in Southeast Asia, have opted to purchase our vaccines. Thailand is also welcome to do so and that the Indian Embassy would be happy to facilitate it,” she said previously.

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