BANGKOK: A royal academy chaired by Princess Chulabhorn, the youngest sibling of Thailand's king, on Friday (May 28) said it would import 1 million doses of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine next month, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised its use.
"We want to help plug in the gaps for business, schools, so they can move forward," Nithi Mahanonda, secretary-general of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy told a news briefing.
Earlier this week, the academy announced it would import "alternative vaccines" to supplement the government campaign.
The government's chaotic and widely criticised mass vaccinations programme is due to start next month, using mainly AstraZeneca vaccines made locally by Siam Bioscience, a company owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The government says it will have 6 million AstraZenaca doses and 3 million Sinovac doses available in June.
The FDA on Friday approved the Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, making it the fifth authorised by Thailand after AstraZeneca, Sinovac's CoronaVac, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen and Moderna.
The royal academy procurement comes after Thailand was hit by its worst COVID-19 outbreak so far, with over 80 per cent of its 144,976 cases and 954 deaths occurring in the past two months, driven by the highly transmissible B117 variant first detected in Britain.
Slightly more than 1 million people in Thailand are fully vaccinated, out of a population of 66 million.
The announcement in the official Royal Gazette surprised some members of the government, which had until now insisted on being the sole importer of COVID-19 vaccines.
Nithi said other organisations would be able to buy from the academy's 1 million Sinopharm doses, adding that it did not seek profit.
The Federation of Thai Industries and the energy firm PTT Group have shown interest as potential buyers and the academy would continue to negotiate for more doses after June based on demand, Nithi said.