Thai PM gets AstraZeneca jab, 1 Asian country suspends

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Government Spokesman Office

In this photo released by Government Spokesman Office, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, front left, receives a shot of the AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine at government house in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Government Spokesman Office via AP)

BANGKOK – Thailand's prime minister received a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca on Tuesday, as much of Asia shrugged off concerns about reports of blood clots in some recipients in Europe, saying that so far there is no evidence to link the two.

Many countries using the vaccine also said the benefits from inoculation far outweighed possible risks, even as parts of Europe suspended it pending investigation of potential side effects.

AstraZeneca has developed a manufacturing base in Asia, and the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has been contracted by the company to produce a billion doses of the vaccine for developing nations. Hundreds of millions more are to be manufactured this year in Australia, Japan, Thailand and South Korea.

“There are people who have concerns," Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said after he received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. "But we must believe doctors, believe in our medical professionals."

Thailand last week was the first country outside Europe to temporarily suspend using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Indonesia followed on Monday, saying it was waiting for a full report from the World Health Organization regarding possible side effects.

But Thailand's health authorities decided to go ahead with AstraZeneca, with Prayuth and members of his Cabinet receiving the first shots.

A large number of European countries — including Germany, France, Italy and Spain — suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine Monday over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients, though the company and international regulators say there is no evidence the shot is to blame.

The EU’s drug regulatory agency called a meeting for Thursday to review experts’ findings on the AstraZeneca shot and to decide whether action needs to be taken.