Choice of jabs needed
There are no signs the Covid-19 pandemic will leave us any time soon. Thus, it is important for Thailand to stockpile vaccines and let the public choose their own vaccines.
After being criticised for its slow vaccination programme, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced on Friday the government would increase its procurement of Covid-19 vaccines to 150-200 million doses from the current target of 100 million doses.
This is the right decision and comes about through bitter experience after the government previously underestimated the pandemic, causing delays in the arrival of vaccines and inadequate supplies on hand to get people inoculated fast.
Apart from that, some virologists say two doses of the vaccine may be not enough for long-term prevention of infection. It is possible people will need to get vaccinated against the coronavirus annually.
That's why the government is racing against time amid high global demand in Covid-19 vaccine market to build up a local stockpile.
But the government should not go it alone in buying vaccines. It should rope in the private sector including private hospitals and corporates, to give the public a choice of jabs.
Unfortunately, the government has not provided enough support to enable the private sector to access the vaccines. Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri last week said a committee on the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines had agreed Covid-19 vaccines would be added to the controlled goods list.
Despite that, the committee agreed the private sector can import its own vaccines from manufacturers, though they are prevented from buying the vaccine brands that the government is using for the state vaccination programme. In fact, the private sector should have access to any Covid vaccines that are endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Thai authorities seem intent on putting a lid on access to vaccines, which is a shame. Recently, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul reiterated that people cannot choose Covid-19 vaccine options under the government scheme as Thailand has a shortage of supply right now.
But as supplies increase, particularly if the private sector is allowed to import vaccines freely, why would the government block people's opportunity to make their own vaccine choices?
Everyone knows that Covid-19 vaccines are available under emergency conditions. The production process has been shortened from 10 years normally to less than 12 months, without any scientifically proven term-side effects.
The vaccines are produced according to various techniques, with only a small minority linked to blood clot problems which may be fatal.
Policy-makers say these amount to just 1 in 100,000 cases, and the benefits of vaccines by far outweigh the risks.
But for the individual, the risk of becoming the one among 100,000 who gets a fatal blood clot could be off-putting.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allows people to choose a vaccine suitable for their health condition. The CDC has guidelines and provides information on the side effects.
Thailand might not be able to follow in the US's footsteps just yet, but should take care to avoid any policy that blocks choice. Thailand's vaccination programme must be pro-choice, letting people choose vaccines that are in line with their health conditions.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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