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Thailand to start first coronavirus vaccinations this week

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BANGKOK, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Thailand will start vaccinatingpriority groups including health workers against COVID-19 by theend of this week, its prime minister said on Tuesday, a dayahead of the arrival of the country's first coronavirusvaccines.

Thailand will receive the first 200,000 of two million dosesof Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac on Wednesday. The Chinesevaccine was given emergency use authorisation on Monday.

"We will start injecting the target groups within three daysafter the vaccines arrive," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ochasaid in a Facebook post.

The Sinovac vaccines will be given to priority groups in 13provinces, the COVID-19 taskforce said. More than half of the200,000 doses will be earmarked for Samut Sakhon, the epicentreof Thailand's latest outbreak, and the capital, Bangkok.

Prayuth said 800,000 more doses will arrive in March and theremaining one million in April, some of which will be used forthe second inoculations for priority groups.

Prayuth also said that 26 million doses of vaccines on orderfrom AstraZeneca, which has authorised a Thai firm tomanufacture its vaccine, will be ready around May to June.

Thailand has also reserved a further 35 million doses fromAstraZeneca.

Thailand will also receive 117,000 imported doses of theAstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday, health minister AnutinCharnvirakul told reporters.

Those were part of the 150,000 "early doses" he hadpreviously said AstraZeneca would provide from another Asiancountry.

Authorities have received some documents from Johnson &Johnson's Janssen and have been contacted by Modernaand Pfizer, all with a view to registeringtheir COVID-19 vaccines, according to Prayuth.

Thailand is aiming to administer 10 million doses a monthfrom June when its mass vaccination campaign is in full swing.(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumnpanat; Writing by PatpichaTanakasempipat; Editing by Martin Petty)