BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday gave emergency use authorisation for the COVID-19 vaccine of Sinovac Biotech, paving the way for the country’s first coronavirus inoculations.
The authorisation came just days before Thailand is set to receive the first 200,000 of two million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac, its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines, which will be given primarily to health workers.
“The FDA has registered Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine for conditional emergency use, effective Feb. 22,” FDA deputy secretary-general Surachok Tangwiwat told Reuters.
Thailand has recorded just 25,504 coronavirus cases in total, more than four-fifths of those since December, with 89 deaths overall.
The government has ordered 26 million coronavirus vaccine doses from AstraZeneca, and reserved a further 35 million doses from the company.
Astrazeneca has authorised a Thai firm to manufacture the vaccine and it will be used for the country’s mass vaccination campaign from June.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Monday he would personally receive the Sinovac vaccines when they arrive. Despite Thai health authorities limiting its usage to people under 60, Prayuth, who is 66, said he was ready for his dose.
He also said most remaining coronavirus restrictions would be relaxed following a decline in new daily cases, to try to stimulate the country’s flagging, tourism-reliant economy, which has suffered from tight limits on foreign visitors and lower consumer confidence.
Prayuth said measures in several provinces including Bangkok would be eased leaving only Samut Sakhon province, the epicentre of the latest outbreak, under the highest level of curbs.
The lifting of restrictions, for which Prayuth gave no timeframe, means bars can reopen and restaurants can sell alcohol, while schools can open again and malls can resume normal operating hours.
Meanwhile, Thailand has welcomed its first group of 41 visitors from South Korea under a “golf quarantine” programme at a course, and received 59 European visitors on a “villa quarantine” programme at a luxury resort in Phuket.
Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Martin Petty
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