Boost jab confidence

Boost jab confidence

The government needs to boost public confidence in its Covid-19 vaccination rollout plan immediately and ensure that more people take part in the campaign.

Failure to do this will be disastrous.

The government's vaccination plan did not get off to a good start. With old problems unsolved and new ones emerging almost everyday, vaccine hesitancy has settled in among the populace.

The risk is that mass inoculation could falter unless the government makes every effort to give it a boost.

Its plan to launch a public relations campaign seems to suggest that the government still has no clue about what is going on with its vaccine programme and how people on the ground feel about it.

The reality is that confidence both in the available vaccines and government's response in the event of side-effects is low.

The main channels to register for the shot via the Mor Prom application and official Line account are far from perfect.

Since it seems the system has not yet been fully integrated with all hospitals and healthcare units where people have their medical records or where the vaccines will be available, many people failed to find a place where they can receive a jab or to book an appointment with designated hospitals.

Considering the situation, it's no surprise that only 10% of 16 million people in the priority group -- adults aged 60 and over and those suffering from congenital illnesses -- have secured vaccination appointments.

The lack of enthusiasm is even more worrisome in other provinces where the take-up rate is even lower. Even in a major province like Chiang Mai, where 600,000 people are targeted for the first-phase rollout, only some 40,000, or less than 7%, have registered.

While it's true that the government will have to revamp its public relations campaign, having doctors and health authorities recite the same message, "the best vaccine is the one that is first available to you", has lost its appeal.

The government made a mistake of securing only two vaccine types. Worse, the primary brand Oxford/AstraZeneca which will account for 80-90% of the shots to be given in the country will not be available until June because the government sought a technology-transfer deal so that Thailand could become a production hub for the region instead of making a straight purchase.

It does not help that there have been reports of side-effects, some seemingly rather serious which the authorities called stroke-like symptoms, after SinoVac vaccines were administered. This is a crucial point that the government has to address.

Instead of glossing over the side-effects and insisting that they are not serious, the government has to keep a detailed log on each case, conduct a thorough investigation about what indeed happened and share it with the public, fully and honestly.

The public must be able to make an informed choice when it comes to the vaccination. Only a full declaration about the vaccines' efficacy and possible side-effects will fix the vaccine hesitancy syndrome gripping the population.

The government must go beyond the inadequate Mor Prom app as well. Make it easy to get a vaccine. Set up properly equipped stations within people's reach. Assure people that they will be well taken care of if there are side-effects. All this must be done, and soon.

But most important of all, the government must try harder to secure other brands of vaccines with higher efficacy. The Thai people deserve a better choice.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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