Don't reject private help

Don't reject private help

The government has announced a new plan to procure 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to cover 50 million people by the end of the year, up from the 65 million doses it had originally planned to procure.

Despite the delays, this is a step in the right direction, as the country needs to quickly reach herd immunity to curb the national outbreak as soon as possible. The more challenging task, however, isn't vaccine procurement -- it is launching an effective mass vaccination drive.

One of the benefits of herd immunity is that it allows vulnerable individuals who cannot get vaccinated, such as those with underlying health problems, infants and the elderly, to stay safe from the disease.

To achieve herd immunity, Thailand needs to vaccinate at least 50 million people, or about 70% of its population. Once achieved, economic activities will be able to restart.

Following heavy criticism over the slow pace of the programme, which has been blamed on an incorrect initial assessment of the latest outbreak, the government is currently ramping up its efforts to secure 100 million doses of vaccine by the year's end.

Between 6-10 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines produced by Siam Bioscience will be available in June. From July onwards, the company has committed to produce 10 million doses per month, which brings the total doses available by the end of the year to 61 million doses.

Meanwhile, the United States, which has one of the world's largest stockpiles of AstraZeneca vaccines, despite having yet to approve them for public use, is expected to take delivery of enough vaccines to cover all adults in the country by the end of May. Global availability, therefore, should improve after that.

This means May is the only month in which the government has to struggle to get enough doses to keep its national jab drive running. Come June, the main issue will no longer be about the amount of vaccines -- but how to carry out an effective vaccination drive to achieve herd immunity by this time next year.

To do so, the government will have to administer at least 300,000 doses a day from June -- a target which Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has promised to achieve.

The problem is, can the government really manage such an ambitious goal? Until now, there has been no clear action plan for the mass vaccination drive.

At present, the government has vaccinated 1.5 million people, at a rate of about 65,000 doses a day. At this pace, it will take at least two years to reach the 50-million-jabs mark. The government will need to raise its daily inoculation figure fivefold to meet its current target. So what is the plan?

Last week, Gen Prayut invited the private sector to discuss ways to involve them in the procurement of additional vaccines. However, there was confusion right after the meeting, as the PM said there was no need for the private sector to help out, as many have been hit financially by the pandemic, before adding that government won't prohibit companies from purchasing their own supplies.

The PM may feel that the private sector's support in vaccine procurement isn't yet necessary. But this is a race against time, and losing this race will mean more cases, more losses and more mutations.

It's a good sign that the private sector is willing to help. What the government needs to do is involve them in its efforts, by providing clear guidelines for the cooperation. Time is running out.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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