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UPDATE 1-Thailand says Russia agrees to supply Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine

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Panarat Thepgumpanat
·2 min read
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* Thailand diversifying sources of vaccines

* Infections should decline in 1-2 weeks - expert

* Pfizer to supply 10 mln doses - health minister

* Thai mass vaccinations yet to start (Adds details throughout)

By Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK, April 22 (Reuters) - Russia has accepted a request to provide Thailand with its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, a Thai official said on Thursday, as the Southeast Asian nation steps up efforts to find more vaccines ahead of its mass immunisation drive.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has promised to find 35 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines from different companies on top of existing orders of around 65 million doses, while the country battles its fastest-spreading outbreak yet.

"President Vladimir Putin has expressed his support for the Thai government on this matter," government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said.

"Our health ministry will now urgently talk to the company importing the Sputnik V vaccine on the timeframe for delivery, the amount and price," he said.

Thailand, which has been credited for its swift containment of previous outbreaks, has yet to start mass vaccinations and its plan until recently was centered almost entirely on 61 million doses of AstraZeneca's, which a local firm will manufacture.

However, it is now looking to diversify its sources of vaccines, amid competition for global supplies and as it tackles a third wave of infections that has seen about 40% of its total cases reported in the past three weeks alone.

Health officials on Thursday said Thailand may have hit the peak of that wave, which include the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant.

"We project that the number of cases will gradually drop in one or two weeks," Opas Karnkawinpong, Director-General of the Disease Control Department said.

Thailand reported seven new deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, its highest number of fatalities in a single day, taking its overall total to 117. It also reported 1,470 infections, taking total cases to 48,113.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul held talks on Thursday with a representative of Pfizer, which he said would provide Thailand with 10 million doses of its vaccine.

"The main thing is the timeframe for the delivery, the price is not a concern and people's safety is more important," Anutin said.

Thailand has been using Sinovac Biotech's vaccine for its initial inoculations, of mainly frontline health workers, as well as imported doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine.

So far, nearly 865,000 people have received at least one shot. (Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Martin Petty)