Thailand began a long-awaited universal vaccination program on Monday as the country faces the coronavirus epidemic’s third and worst wave.
The government hopes to distribute 6 million doses of domestically manufactured AstraZeneca and imported Sinovac vaccinations this month, alleviating concerns about the delayed rollout and supply difficulties.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said in televised remarks after visiting an immunization clinic in Bangkok, “The government will ensure that everyone is vaccinated.”
By the end of the year, the government hopes to have vaccinated 70% of Thailand’s population of more than 66 million people. A first dose has been given to 2.8 million persons judged most susceptible, including frontline health and transportation employees.
Opposition lawmakers, on the other hand, have accused the administration of complacency and an over-reliance on locally manufactured AstraZeneca dosages.
Last year, Thailand spared the worst of the pandemic while it ravaged other countries, but it is now dealing with its deadliest outbreak. So far, the third wave has responsible for more than 80% of all illnesses. On Monday, officials reported 2,419 additional COVID-19 cases and 33 deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 179,886 and 1,269 deaths.
“My feeling is that no matter what, we will need to go outside of home for the littlest things, so getting the vaccine gives us a sense of relief,” said Praepawee Lertpongkijja, 38, at a Bangkok vaccination center.
Concerns about the production capacity of royal-owned Siam Bioscience, the Thai business developing the AstraZeneca vaccine locally, prompted the government to scramble to find more vaccinations when the Philippines indicated their order had been decreased and delayed.
The health ministry stated in a statement that Thailand will receive an extra 3.24 million doses from AstraZeneca after mid-June, but did not specify how much will be created domestically.
A health ministry source told Reuters that the Thai government got 1.8 million domestically made AstraZeneca shots on Friday and has ordered additional 200,000 doses from South Korea. Thailand hopes to sign a contract for 20 million shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine this week.