Those old enough to remember the 1990s should also remember how Thailand talked enthusiastically about competing with Singapore to become the leading nation in ASEAN.
For the past two decades, however, the silence on this topic is deafening.
If there’s any silver lining in the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is that AstraZeneca will be produced in Thailand. Within the year 2021, the kingdom will be ASEAN’s center for the COVID-19 vaccine. At least, that’s the plan.
But by early 2023, Singapore will become the center for the Pfizer vaccine and produce “several hundreds of millions” of mRNA-based vaccine doses a year. The German drug company BioNTech has struck the deal for a new manufacturing facility in Singapore.
As such, within less than two years, Thailand’s AstraZeneca will have a competitor.
Which is the better vaccine?
According to real-world data released by South Korean authorities, a single dose of AstraZeneca has 86% efficacy, while a single dose of Pfizer has 89.7% efficacy.
Both numbers will improve through further research and development. It would be unfair to assume the two vaccines would not be on par by this time next year.
Nonetheless, consumer confidence remains key. It is no secret that those Thais who can afford it are flying abroad to receive Pfizer vaccination. While many in the kingdom are holding out for Pfizer or AstraZeneca, as opposed to rushing to receive Sinovac.
At the end of the day, the citizens of ASEAN will have two choices for locally made vaccines: Thailand’s AstraZeneca or Singapore’s Pfizer.
Consumer confidence over “Made in Thailand” versus “Made in Singapore” aside, the competitive advantage will be pricing, manufacturer’s capacity and effectiveness, and government-to-government negotiations.
In the medium to long term, the question becomes which nation will be, regardless of the brand, ASEAN’s real center for COVID-19 vaccine:
General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s Thailand or Lee Hsien Loong’s Singapore?