Govt twists and squirms in jab blame game

Govt twists and squirms in jab blame game

A major hullabaloo is ongoing regarding the vaccine shortage. Yet, no-one can be held accountable. Isn't that a puzzling mystery?

The blame game would have made a great comedic act had it not involved people's lives, and deaths.

The vaccination shortage and the government-is-always-right saga goes like this. The prime minister has given the order. The public health minister has executed it. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has conducted meetings and giving out daily updates. The agencies concerned and provincial authorities have also done what they were told to do. Everything seems flawless except the vaccines. Where are the vaccines?

Since it seems no-one wants to answer the question, the mystery has intensified with authorities issuing statements that either contradict one another or do not seem to make any sense at all.

All the while, no-one, not even the PM, has bothered to tell us the whole truth about the procurement of vaccines, how the rollout was planned and why it has become so messy.

No-one, not even the PM who serves as head of virtually every Covid-19 task force who also enjoys sweeping power under the emergency decree, has stood up and said: "I am taking care of this. The buck stops here."

Over the weekend, dozens of hospitals and vaccination centres sent out notices informing people who had registered to receive Covid-19 vaccines at their premises of indefinite delays as they had not been allocated enough jabs.

This is only few days after the grandiose launch of the mass inoculation just last week, with the PM announcing that "history had been made" with more than 300,000 doses administered in a single day! Thailand had begun to strike back at Covid-19, it was said.

The fightback was short. The long saga of stupendous confusion, and a lack of policy coherence and accountability that have become a familiar feature since Covid-19 became part of our lives quickly returned. That people who faced delays this time include seniors aged over 60 and those with underlying illnesses who authorities had classified as priority groups to receive the vaccine has added to the confusion, and increased the resentment.

As frustration grew both from the spurn public and hospitals which were made to answer their questions, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the postponements had nothing to do with his portfolio. The Public Health Ministry has distributed the vaccines to every province including Bangkok, according to the quotas assigned by the CCSA.

He said each province is responsible for allocating the vaccines to hospitals and vaccination stations under their jurisdiction. The Public Health Ministry can't be blamed because it was not the one who came up with the vaccination plan, distribution and implementation, Mr Anutin said.

On the same day, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) issued a statement saying the delays were not its fault either. It said it has received 500,000 doses out of a million under its quota for June.

City Hall, however, is responsible for many groups including people who registered via the Mor Prom application, those who live in outbreak areas and new clusters, senior citizens as well as the general public.

The 500,000 doses are apparently not enough as the number of people who registered for vaccines in June via the Mor Prom application already stands at 450,000.

The BMA has no control over the Mor Prom app, which is run by the Public Health Ministry. The BMA tried to distribute the available vaccines to every group under its care. But apparently, the supplies were not enough to meet the demand.

In short, the BMA was just like the Public Health Ministry in insisting it was only following orders. So who is to blame for the vaccine shortage?

The government that keeps assuring the public it has secured enough vaccines for everyone but forgot to lock the delivery dates? The CCSA that planned the aggressive 100-million-doses rollout apparently with no consideration about the supply chain? The Public Health Ministry that blindly distributed the vaccines without asking whether they were sufficient for the mission?

Since no-one, not even the PM who declared the mass vaccination a national agenda item, is willing to take responsibility for the problem, the blame game could keep on going if the shortage drags on.

The truth is that if every minister and agency had done the right thing, there wouldn't be any shortages or such a messy rollout. Had the government not been so complacent and started to secure more vaccines and sooner as suggested by many people, it wouldn't have been caught off guard like this.

But since the government must always be right in this saga, it's sad to say the twisting and turning will only get worse.

Atiya Achakulwisut is a Bangkok Post columnist.

Atiya Achakulwisut

Columnist for the Bangkok Post

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

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