Thailand races to create COVID vaccine, eyes possible medical tourism boost

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration
·2 min read

By Juarawee Kittisilpa

AYUTTHAYA, Thailand (Reuters) - Momentum is building behind Thailand's push to create its own coronavirus vaccine, with more manpower and resources dedicated to the effort amid hopes it could boost medical tourism.

Thai trials of an experimental vaccine using monkeys started last month, one of at least 100 potential vaccines being developed globally. The government is hopeful it will have a cost-effective vaccine ready for next year.

Bionet-Asia, a local firm working with the government and a top Bangkok university, has put all other activities on hold and dedicated 250 personnel and all of its labs, technology and production facilities to developing a COVID-19 vaccine.

"In the case of COVID, there is a global effort to speed up experiment, trials, to share information, share diagnostics and that's why we are in a position too, to move very fast," chief executive officer, Pham Hong Thai, told Reuters.

He said tests on animals had so far shown encouraging results and the next step would be seeking government approval for clinical trials involving humans.

With just over 3,082 cases and 57 deaths, Thailand has had some success in containing the coronavirus and eased many of its restrictions in response to low infection numbers.

It has been seven days without a case of local transmission, with all infections this past week found among quarantined nationals returning from overseas.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said it was important to channel all efforts towards the development of a vaccine and put Thailand on the medical map.

"Thailand has a good healthcare system, good medical practices. It will garner a lot of interest from tourists and investors and boost us as a medical hub," he said.

(Reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Martin Petty, Editing by William Maclean)

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