Thai scientists are developing a coronavirus vaccine that is cost-effective and accessible to its neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. The country also aims to play a part in preventing a supply shortage globally. Last week, their government announced its plans to have the vaccine ready for deployment next year after the successful trials of Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University conducted on mice.
Kiat Ruxrungtham, director of the university's coronavirus vaccine development, emphasized that their aim is not to make money but rather to address the issue of accessibility, South China Morning Post reports.
Thailand has already begun their trials on the experimental vaccine on monkeys last Saturday, one of at least 100 vaccines under development worldwide.
Help Thy Neighbor
"We don't aim for making money. It's not a money issue but an accessibility one," said Kiat Ruxrungtham. He and his team have partnered with experts and biotech companies in North America to mass-produce the vaccine in Thailand, at a price more affordable in the country and its neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
Formerly known as Siam, the Kingdom of Thailand has had some success in controlling the spread of the coronavirus with just over 3,000 cases and 57 deaths recorded. Moreover, the country has already started easing some restrictions as it is positioning itself as the number one safe destination to visit once travel restarts.
In the past month, Thailand has been reporting less than 10 cases per day, compared to the hundreds of cases being reported daily in Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
"If our neighbors still have high infection numbers, then we won't survive as well in the long term," said Kiat. He added that it is important not to rely on big economies to develop and manufacture the vaccine against coronavirus. Doing so could result in a supply bottleneck.
If ever one of the coronavirus vaccine candidates work, it is unlikely that a manufacturing facility can make millions or billions of doses to supply countries around the world. So, countries like Thailand should step up and do their own work as well, according to Kiat.
Thai Scientists Begin Vaccine Trials on Monkeys
A Thai official confirmed that they are now testing a vaccine against the coronavirus on monkeys after its positive results in mice. Suvit Maesincee, Thailand's minister of higher education, science, and research and innovation, said that researchers hope to have a "clearer outcome" of its effectiveness by September.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has outlined a policy that the scientists must develop a vaccine and join the world in its search for a vaccine against the deadly virus, Suvit told the reporters on Saturday.
Moreover, Suvit also said that Thailand has already reserved two manufacturers for its vaccine, which uses messenger RNA that prompts body cells to produce antigens, molecules on the surface of coronavirus that spur the immune system into action.
The National Vaccine Institute, the Department of Medical Science, and Chulalongkorn University's vaccine research center is currently in charge of developing the vaccine.