Thai state drugmaker sues critic of its vaccine procurement

SOMOS Community Care administers Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine at pop-up site in New York
A healthcare worker holds a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine at a pop-up vaccination site operated by SOMOS Community Care during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar

BANGKOK, July 14 (Reuters) - Thailand's state drugmaker on Wednesday said it had initiated a defamation suit against the prominent chairman of a private hospital operator over his criticism of its procurement of Moderna (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccines.

The Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) suit accuses Boon Vanasin of providing false information, claiming that the GPO, as coordinator for Moderna vaccines for private hospitals, sought to maximize profit from the public, the GPO said in a statement.

"This damaged the GPO and therefore it is necessary to take legal action," it said.

The lawsuit comes as the government comes under fire for its vaccine policy, which has so far relied on Sinovac (SVA.O) and AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccines.

Another critic of the strategy, opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, is facing charges of insulting the monarchy after accusing the government of over-reliance on a royal-owned firm to produce AstraZeneca vaccines. The crime is punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.

Boon, the outspoken chairman of Thonburi Healthcare Group Pcl (THG.BK) and another critic of the government's vaccine policy, told local media that he welcomed the complaint.

"If GPO is suing me, then it's a good thing," Boon was quoted saying by local media.

"The GPO documents can be revealed and opened in court. It's all there, how many and how much."

Boon could not be immediately reached for comment and Thonburi Healthcare Group did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Demand for mRNA vaccines in Thailand has surged amid slow rollout of the AstraZeneca shot and waning confidence in Sinovac. read more

The private hospital association had requested the GPO purchase 10 million Moderna doses for patients who had showed interest.

The GPO last month said it had procured just 3.9 million doses of the vaccine for private hospitals and expects another 1.1 million doses in 2022. read more

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.