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Photo: Hakan Nural/UnsplashA mock up of a Covid-19 vaccine for illustration purposes only

What we know so far about COVID-19 vaccination in Thailand

Here’s a tentative timeline of the country’s vaccination program

By Top Koaysomboon
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Vaccinations against the dreaded COVID-19 have started in other countries and many of us are wondering when inoculations will start in the kingdom. Here’s what we’ve gathered.  

What’s the plan?

The Prayut-led government has announced that 33 million Thai citizens—that’s about half of the country—will get the COVID-19 vaccine before the end of 2021.

Where do the vaccines come from?

We’ll get them mainly from two manufacturers: Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac and British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. The latter has also signed a bilateral deal with Crown Property Bureau-parented biopharmaceutical company Siam Bioscience to produce and distribute at least 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the Southeast Asian region.    

When will vaccination start in Thailand?

The first round of injections will start on or around Feb 14. Frontline medical workers and high-risk citizens will be the first to be inoculated. Here’s a brief:

  • February: First 50,000 doses from AstraZeneca will arrive, followed by 200,000 doses from Sinovac. (These vaccines require two doses per person.
  • March: 800,000 doses from Sinovac and 150,000 doses from AstraZeneca.
  • April: 1,000,000 doses from Sinovac. 
  • May: 26 million doses from AstraZeneca-Siam Bioscience bilateral production.

The government has assured the country that they’re working extra-hard to get the vaccines as planned.

Why does it take so long?

All vaccines must first be approved by the Thai FDA. 

Is it free?

Yes, the vaccines are free for Thai citizens. Expats may have to pay to get vaccinated, but we still don’t know how much.

What are some concerns with regards to vaccination?

A major issue is the quality of the vaccine. Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine tested just above the bottom line of vaccine efficiency at 50.4 percent, according to a clinical trial in Brazil. In comparison, the vaccine produced by Pfizer and Moderna, which are now being widely used in western countries, are reported to be 95 percent effective

Second, the fact that only half of the Thai population will get the vaccine has raised some eyebrows. The Ministry of Public Health, however, has said that this number is enough to create herd immunity in the kingdom.   

Third, concerned citizens are citing a conflict of interest. Charoen Pokphand Group (CP), one of Thailand’s largest conglomerates, owns at least 15 percent of Sinovac. Netizens have questioned whether the B1.2 billion the Thai government is paying for the Chinese vaccine will only end up expanding the wealth of the private firm. Political activist Thanatorn Juengrungruengkit has also argued that the AstraZeneca deal lacked transparency and wondered why Siam Bioscience has a monopoly on producing a vaccine in Thailand.

We’ll keep reporting updates once we get them. Keep your eyes on this space.  

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