Thailand in talks to buy COVID-19 vaccines from European nations

People receive the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine as the Thai resort island of Phuket rushes to vaccinate its population amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, and ahead of a July 1 ending of strict quarantine for overseas visitors, to bring back tourism revenue in Phuket, Thailand, April 1, 2021. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

BANGKOK, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Thailand is in talks with European countries to purchase millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, a health official said on Thursday, as the Southeast Asian nation tries to speed up its inoculation rollout to contain a wave of infections.

Authorities in Thailand have been scrambling to shore up vaccine supplies, despite the country being the production hub for AstraZeneca shots in the region. Last week, the government said it would borrow 150,000 AstraZeneca doses from the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. read more

"Some countries may have a surplus of AstraZeneca (AZN.L) or Pfizer (PFE.N) vaccines and will be able to sell two to three million doses each month," senior health official Kiattiphum Wongrajit told a briefing.

Kiattiphum did not specify any European countries involved in the talks.

So far, about 9% of Thailand's population of more than 66 million have been fully vaccinated as it deals with its deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus.

The majority of the country’s 1.1 million infections and 10,314 fatalities came after April this year due to the highly-transmissible Alpha and Delta variants, though infection rates have shown signs of easing.

"New cases have peaked and new infections will gradually decrease," Kiattiphum said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said AstraZeneca would deliver 61 million doses that were previously delayed by the end of this year. read more

Thailand's coronavirus taskforce will decide on Friday whether to relax lockdown measures, including a proposal to shorten a nighttime curfew and allow dining in at restaurants for those who are vaccinated or have been recently tested, he said.

Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboonsarng Editing by Ed Davies

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