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This country is using royally produced vaccines — you’ll never guess where

No, it’s not the United Kingdom

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People wait for COVID-19 vaccination in Bangkok, Thailand.

People wait for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination at Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, June 7, 2021.

Sakchai Lalit, Associated Press

Thailand’s much-anticipated coronavirus mass-vaccination campaign launched Monday. The campaign plans to primarily use COVID-19 vaccines locally produced by Siam BioScience, a royally owned pharmaceutical company, according to Al Jazeera.

The Thai government’s vaccination efforts have come under strong criticism, particularly because of its reliance on vaccines produced by Siam BioScience, a company owned by Thai royalty, reported The Associated Press.

What vaccines is Thailand using?

Oxford’s AstraZeneca has partnered with Thai pharmaceutical company Siam BioScience to produce vaccines. The partnership aims to produce and distribute more vaccines across Southeast Asia, CNN reported.

  • Siam BioScience has no experience producing vaccines, said the AP.
  • Skepticism has emerged about the production capabilities of Siam BioScience, per the AP.

However, the sole owner of Siam BioScience is Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, reported CNN. Thailand has some of the strictest lese majeste laws in the world, with punishments of up to 15 years jail time for criticizing royalty.

  • Siam BioScience is supposed to begin shipping vaccines internationally by July, CNN said.

Under the current outbreak, the Thai government is scrambling to secure more vaccines immediately. In addition to AstraZeneca, Thailand has received Chinese-made Sinovac doses, per the AP.

  • Negotiations are underway with BioNTech for 20 million doses of Pfizer, reported Al Jazeera. An agreement announcement is expected this week.

Vaccination sites have delayed many appointments due to a shortage in vaccinations, said the AP.

How bad are the coronavirus outbreaks in Thailand?

Thailand was previously praised for its success in containing COVID-19 spread. Since April, the country’s worst outbreak has spread rapidly, reported CNN.

  • Thailand has reported about 180,000 total COVID-19 cases since January 2020 — more than 84% of cases have come from the April surge, said the AP.
  • The country has recorded over 1,900 coronavirus-related fatalities — more than 92% coming from the ongoing outbreak, AP reported.

The third wave of outbreaks emerged from Bangkok’s entertainment district then spread through prisons, migrant worker dorms, factories and slums, CNN reported.