Govt defends decision not to join Covax vaccine alliance

Govt defends decision not to join Covax vaccine alliance

A woman takes a Covid-19 swab test during mass testing at the Pornpat wet market in Thanyaburi on Friday. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)
A woman takes a Covid-19 swab test during mass testing at the Pornpat wet market in Thanyaburi on Friday. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)

The government on Sunday defended its decision not to join the WHO-sponsored coronavirus vaccine programme, saying that to do so would risk the country paying more for the shots and facing uncertainty about delivery times.

The government has been criticised by opposition politicians and protesters for lacking transparency and being too slow in procuring vaccines. While the country of 66 million people has had low numbers of cases and deaths, it is dealing with a second wave of infections.

Frontline health workers are to begin receiving 2 million imported Chinese Sinovac shots within a month, but mass vaccinations for the general population are not due to begin until locally produced AstraZeneca doses are ready in June.

Government spokesman Anucha Buraphachaisri, responding to media reports that Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country to skip the WHO's Covax scheme, said that as a middle-income country Thailand is not eligible for free or cheap vaccines under the programme.

"Buying vaccines directly from the manufacturers is an appropriate choice... as it's more flexible," Mr Anucha said.

"If Thailand wants to join the Covax programme, it will have to pay for vaccines itself with a high budget and there is also a risk," he said, adding the country had to make an advance payment without knowing the source of vaccines and delivery dates. He did not specify the costs.

In all, 190 countries including have joined Covax, which aims to ensure equitable access to vaccines during the pandemic. The scheme is jointly run by the GAVI alliance, the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Unicef.

Thailand so far has not received or produced any vaccines, even as many neighbours have started inoculations.

The government reported 166 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the total of infections to 24,571, with a death toll of 80. 

Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (17)

Thong Lor police chief, deputy transferred over Covid cluster

Two top officers at the Thong Lor police station in Bangkok have been transferred to inactive posts at the operations centre of the Metropolitan Police Division 5 headquarters after Thailand's third wave of Covid-19 apparently spread from entertainment venues in an area under their jurisdiction.

17:10

Iran blames Israel for attack on Natanz nuclear site, vows revenge

TEHRAN: Iran charged on Monday that its arch-enemy Israel was "of course" behind an attack on its main nuclear site, the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, and vowed "revenge... in due time".

16:45

Myanmar's Suu Kyi hit with new criminal charge

YANGON: Myanmar's ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with a fresh criminal charge on Monday, as the junta's tough crackdown on dissent rolls on.

16:17