Vaccines must be safe

Vaccines must be safe

In a race to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, every country is trying to secure as many vaccines as it can, as soon as possible. Thailand is no different.

Due to the urgency posed by the pandemic, everyone concerned has substantially cut short the vaccine development process, down from the regular period of about 10 years to just 12-18 months. With such a shortened period for development, no one has been able to estimate the long-term side effects of the vaccines, nor their efficacy.

This inevitably raises concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines which are going to be hastily administered to the general public, in the hope of ending the pandemic.

Last week, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced the nation's first vaccination drive will begin sometime next month, as Thailand is set to receive 200,000 doses of vaccines made by Sinovac, a Chinese pharmaceutical company, in February.

The first lot, which is reserved for frontline medical workers and elderly people in high-risk situations, is a part of the two million doses which the government has ordered from the company. The other 800,000, and one million doses will arrive in March and April respectively.

As a long-term plan against Covid-19, the prime minister said half the country's population will get free Covid-19 jabs this year. The government has pre-ordered some 26 million doses from the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca, and it recently bought another 35 million doses.

The announcement came after reports emerged that some countries in Asean have received their Covid-19 vaccines and begun vaccinating their people.

The countries include Indonesia, which received 1.8 million doses -- its second batch of coronavirus vaccines -- from Sinovac in December last year, adding to the 1.2 million it received earlier. The country aims to vaccinate its 267 million citizens for free.

Laos also announced it has received 2,000 doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, and has already begun vaccinating some 200 volunteers. More doses of Russian-made "Sputnik V" vaccine will be delivered this month, it said.

The announcements raised questions about how Thailand is handling its vaccine procurement, as local infections in the country have surpassed 10,000. The biggest news, however, is the expected launch of the Sinovac vaccine next month, despite the fact that its Phase III trials are still under way in Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey.

Some believe the Chinese-made vaccine is safe, as its production method is relatively simple, and its mechanism of action is widely shared by other vaccines -- it uses virus particles to trigger the body's immune response.

According to a Global Times report, Brazilian health officials announced on Friday that in its final-stage trial, the vaccine proved to be 78% effective, before adding it is the safest and most promising vaccine candidate they have.

That is good news even if its phase III clinical trial, which will show the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, has yet to conclude.

The urgent need for public inoculation is well understood, but it is also important to ensure the vaccine is effective and safe. As the Thai government plans to use the Chinese-made vaccine in vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and medical personnel, it is crucial to look at details of the trial to ensure the jabs are safe and efficient.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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