By Chayut Setboonsarng
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Two private hospitals in Thailand have ordered millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines ahead of regulatory approval, adding to government orders of vaccines as the Southeast Asian country tackles a second wave of the virus.
"We ordered one million doses of the Sinovac vaccine with an option to buy nine million more," Boon Vanasin, the chairman of Thonburi Healthcare Group Pcl, told Reuters.
From the initial one million doses, he plans to use about half to inoculate staff in its network of 40 hospitals and workers in his other businesses, once receiving approval from Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Thai government has separately ordered two million doses from China's Sinovac Biotech and expects delivery of 200,000 doses with plans to inoculate frontline workers and medical professionals in high-risk areas next month.
The government has also ordered 61 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be produced by local firm Siam Bioscience for domestic use and export.
"We can’t just wait for the government," Boon said, adding that it was not clear how many doses from the government’s vaccine stockpile would reach private hospital workers.
For patients, Thonburi's medical centres plan to offer two vaccine injections for 3,200 baht ($106.28).
"We cannot take a profit here because it is a humanitarian issue for the country," he said.
For most of last year, Thailand kept the number of coronavirus cases low, but a second outbreak in December has brought confirmed infections to 12,423 with 70 deaths.
Another private hospital, Vibhavadi Medical Centre Pcl, has ordered 10,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, managing director Chaisit Kupwiwat, told Reuters.
So far, Thailand's FDA has received registration requests for the Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines.
Thailand is expected to approve one of the vaccines this week for emergency use, Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, told a briefing without elaborating.
Last week, the FDA said it was processing AstraZeneca's request, which it expected to approve soon.
($1 = 30.1100 baht)
(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat, Orathai Sriring and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Ed Davies)