Jab rollout mustn't fail

Jab rollout mustn't fail

The national vaccination rollout is the one task that the government cannot afford to fail at. It's unfortunate that its record so far is not one that will boost public confidence.

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has made an ambitious promise.

Following a backlash from all political sides, the PM vowed to buy another 37 million doses of alternative vaccines to add to the two million doses of Sinovac and 61 million doses of AstraZeneca jabs that are being produced here by Siam Bioscience and will be ready in June. The total of 100 million doses will cover 50 million people, or about 60-70% of the population, which just about meets the threshold for herd immunity.

The amount does not seem to leave any room for unpredictable circumstances. What if there is another wave where more vaccines would be needed to curb the immediate outbreak? What if there are delays in production? Many unforeseeable factors are involved in times of crisis such as the one we are currently facing.

Failure to take into account the multiple risks involved and manage them accordingly is the mistake the government seems to have made, resulting in the perceived delay in securing an adequate number of vaccines for the population.

The government has come up with many reasons for why it did not secure more vaccines. Some are understandable, considering how uncertain the early stages of the pandemic and vaccine development were. Others, however, appear less so, especially as other parts of the world have been grappling with the coronavirus for more than a year, have withstood several mutations and have successfully rolled out multiple vaccines.

Despite intense competition and other hurdles, the government must make utmost efforts to secure more vaccines. It's a matter of life and death. The wellbeing of the Thai people and the country's trillions-baht economy hinges on this mission.

Another weak spot in Gen Prayut's 100-million-doses plan is whether the government will be able to secure the alternative 37 million doses in time for rollout. The government said it would try to secure 5-20 million doses of Pfizer, 5-10 million doses of Sputnik V and Johnson & Johnson, and more from other brands including Moderna, Sinopharm and Bharat Biotech.

This is just a promise though. There has been no information about when the shots will be secured or how. The biggest concern regarding the national inoculation plan is perhaps the rollout.

The government said that its vaccination rollout has so far been on target. The rate, however, seems relatively slow, especially when 100 million doses must be administered within the next six months, as per the plan.

Since the rollout started in early March, the government has administered almost 1.9 million shots, an average of 31,000 per day. To accomplish the upcoming 100-million-doses challenge, the government would have to inoculate about 500,000 people per day.

With reports of undesirable side-effects from the vaccines, the government has to be well prepared in terms of providing timely and adequate information to the public. More importantly, medical personnel and equipment must be provided to ensure that people with side-effects are treated properly.

The government's vaccine distribution plan, setting up 1,000 sites to administer 500-1,000 doses per day, looks solid enough. Under the plan, the government should be able to administer 15-30 million doses per month and 100 million doses within four to seven months as planned. This is a tough mission but one the government must accomplish, at all costs.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : ploenpotea@bangkokpost.co.th

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