Private sector questions government hurdles in vaccine acquisition

Government regulations are still hampering efforts by private hospitals to acquire vaccines despite statements made by the prime minister that the government would allow the hospitals to acquire vaccines on their own.

Following statements made by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha on Tuesday wherein he said that private hospitals could acquire vaccines on their own to supplement the government’s vaccine program, private hospitals have come out to say that regulatory hurdles are still preventing private hospitals from pushing ahead with their own program.

“We welcome the prime minister’s statements on the vaccines,” said a senior administrative official at Samitivej Hospital, “but there needs to be action on the part of the government to deregulate and allow us to go ahead with our purchase plan.”

“As it stands right now, we still face significant legislative and logistical barriers put in place by the government,” he told Thai Enquirer by phone on condition of anonymity.

Boon Vanasin, chairman of the Thonburi Healthcare Group, said on Wednesday that the government’s regulations are hampering their efforts to procure coronavirus vaccines, echoing the statements made by Samitivej.

Boon said that hospitals still need to ask permission from the government and the vaccines must be approved first before being brought in.

Boon told local news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that the process to register any other vaccines besides Sinovac’s and AstraZeneca’s would take four months to complete which is “too slow.”

Boon said as a result, the Thonburi Healthcare Group decided to buy directly from Sinovac in order to import 10 million doses at a price of US$37 per jab which is higher than what Thai government have paid at $17 per jab.

However, Boon said that his group met another delay when the FDA said it will take them 30 to 90 days to check all the documents.

An official at Bumrungrad Hospital told Thai Enquirer on Thursday that the group had been actively trying to bring in both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the local government but lack of government oversight have stopped their plans.

“Of course we want the vaccines that are in high demand even if they’re more expensive,” the official told Thai Enquirer.

“We don’t get why the government is insisting on an approval process that would see us be able to use the vaccines in July when the world is already vaccinating using these brands already.”

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