Asian countries seek alternative COVID-19 vaccine supply due to delays

Asian countries seek alternative COVID-19 vaccine supply due to delays

Several Asian countries will have to seek alternative sources for COVID-19 inoculations as India delays shipments of AstraZeneca vaccines to prioritize its own needs. 

Moody’s Analytics Associate Economist Eric Chiang said in his analysis released on Tuesday, India is one of the world’s largest producers of coronavirus vaccines, supplying millions of doses of the AstraZeneca jab to the COVAX scheme for middle- and low-income countries.

However, Chiang said raw material shortages affected production, partly due to export bans from the U.S. on key components in vaccine production such as vials, glass, plastic and stoppers. 

He said the export curb deepens the problems facing the COVAX scheme, relied on by 64 poorer countries, and adds to previous setbacks that include production glitches and a lack of funding contribution from wealthy nations.

“South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are among countries to be hit by shipment delays to vaccines they have been promised under the COVAX programme, ” he said. 

Chiang said the shortage could leave these countries further behind in inoculations, increasing the vaccine inequity, and undermine international efforts to counter the pandemic.

He said Thailand will receive an additional 10 million doses of AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines as the country ramps up efforts to restart its tourism industry. 

Chiang said Phuket, Thailand’s most popular resort island, has jumped to the head of the COVID-19 vaccination line, embarking on a mass inoculation programme two months ahead of the rest of the country. 

“Its aim is to deliver shots to most of the population as it gears up to reopen for quarantine-free travel in July. Thailand’s decision to prioritise Phuket over other parts of the country underscores the central role of tourism to the economy, as the country attempts to revive a tourist industry devastated by the pandemic,” he said. 

Chiang said tourism accounted for nearly one-fifth of Thailand’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019 and is also an important source of employment.

He said the reopening of Phuket will be used as a test to gauge international tourism demand as well as Thailand’s readiness to reopen other tourism-reliant destinations for overseas travellers later this year.