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Thailand's prime minister receives AstraZeneca vaccine after delays

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (L) receives a shot of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday at Government House in Bangkok. Photo courtesy of Royal Thai Government/EPA-EFE
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (L) receives a shot of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday at Government House in Bangkok. Photo courtesy of Royal Thai Government/EPA-EFE

March 16 (UPI) -- Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as more countries suspended use of the product.

Prayuth, 66, received the vaccine Tuesday, becoming the first person in Thailand to receive the British drug maker's version, Al Jazeera reported.

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Prayuth said he wanted to "boost confidence for the general public" in the vaccine, which is being shunned because of a possible tie to blood clots in other parts of the world.

The Thai leader initially planned to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine Friday, but Thailand suspended a rollout after reports of the clots.. AstraZeneca said only 37 cases of blood clots were reported after 17 million people had been vaccinated in Europe.

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On Friday Prayuth canceled his initial vaccine appointment. According to the Financial Times, reporters were apprised of the postponement only after they had gathered at the health ministry. The government cited concerns over "side effects or adverse symptoms," the report said.

"To slow down or to pause vaccinations to investigate is common medical practice," Thailand's Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Facebook.

Several European countries have suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but Thailand is relying on the drugmaker for inoculations.

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Bangkok is to receive 61 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. China's Sinovac is supplying another 2 million doses, according to the Financial Times.

The agreement with AstraZeneca includes a tech transfer. Thailand's Siam Bioscience is to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine domestically, but the agreement has come under criticism.

In January opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said the tech transfer benefits Thailand's royal family.

RELATED France, Germany, Italy, other European nations halt AstraZeneca vaccine

Siam Bioscience is royal-owned, and King Maha Vajiralongkorn's massive wealth has come under scrutiny since 2020, when protesters demanded he give up control of his assets, estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars.

Thailand's AstraZeneca vaccines arrived from South Korea, according to Thai PBS World.

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