Senate jabs shame House

Senate jabs shame House

Thailand's vaccination programme has never been far from the spotlight since details first emerged. As the country faces a third wave associated with entertainment venues in Thong Lor, there needs no further proof that the inoculation programme is going at a snail's pace. Now priority has become an issue.

Thailand is among the counties with slow Covid-19 vaccine distribution. As of last week, only 530,000 doses of vaccine had been administered, or just 0.3% of the population. In Asean, Thailand lacks behind several countries including Singapore in which vaccination coverage is 14.6%, Indonesia (2.8%), Malaysia (1.4%), Cambodia (1.3%), Myanmar (1%), and the Philippines (0.4%). With such slow progress, it's no wonder many are scrambling for the shots as vaccine shipments arrive in their provinces.

In principle, frontline health workers are the top priority, followed by vulnerable groups such as patients with acute and chronic diseases, people with possible exposure to Covid-19, those who live in particularly at-risk areas, and also people living and working in tourism destinations set to open for foreign visitors.

However, there are complaints among frontline medical personnel that many, despite having an elevated risk of contraction, have not been vaccinated yet. There is particular frustration due to the visibility of those in privileged positions receiving their jabs, particularly senators.

Such wrong priorities sparked an outcry from several MPs who raised the matter with House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, asking why MPs have not been vaccinated, like those in the Upper House.

These complaints have made the public all too aware that those 250 military-appointed senators have received their jab, while many more deserving groups have missed out. Some politicians who have to meet their constituents think they deserve early vaccination. That's quite different from appointed senators who are not responsible to voters in any constituency.

In a recent Nida poll, a vast majority of Thais said they believe politicians should be among the last people to receive Covid-19 vaccines. Only 0.5% of respondents agreed politicians should be the first ones to be vaccinated.

According to Sukit Atthopakorn, an adviser to the House Speaker, since some politicians are doctors themselves, they may have been able to secure the formula through work. There is now widespread speculation as to which member of the upper house could have secured vaccines for all senators.

As all Covid-19 vaccine distribution is controlled by the government, most theories lead to the top and someoone powerful enough to allocate 500 does of the vaccines (two doses a person) to a group not on the priority list.

Earlier in the US, five Florida senators came under fire after also becoming the first Americans to receive the coronavirus vaccine despite having no connection with healthcare or contact with virus patients. That criticism flared up despite 179 million doses, or 27.7% coverage, have been administered.

The privilege afforded this special political class is appalling. And the same is happening in Thailand. It's a shame that the 250 senators acted selfishly, taking supplies that would have been been saved for those on the frontline. And anyone who had a hand in this happening must also be condemned.

This is one of those rare chances for senators to prove their mettle through inaction, yet even that appears beyond them when it comes to the Covid-19 jabs.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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