The first Covid-19 vaccine shots in Thailand will begin by the end of this month as the first 200,000 doses of China's Sinovac vaccine are scheduled to arrive on Feb 24, the government said on Monday.
At most, three days will be required for the final inspection of the imported vaccines before vaccinations actually begin, it added.
China's Sinovac Biotech had confirmed that production of 200,000 doses for Thailand with the vaccines ready for shipment on Feb 20, said Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul on Monday.
The Department of Medical Sciences will then inspect the vaccines one last time to ensure the delivered product meets standards and are as effective as declared to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), he added.
"The inoculation programme will begin right away after the department confirms the vaccine is good to go," he said.
Department of Disease Control general-director Opas Karnkawinpong said the final inspection of the imported vaccine, termed as lot release, will take two to three days at most.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said after the first lot of vaccine arrives and is administered to at-risk groups, the second batch of 800,000 doses and the third batch of one million doses will follow.
These batches will be administered as the second shot for people who have already received their first jab and as the first shot for others, he said.
Migrant workers will be another group to be given priority in the vaccination programme, other than frontline healthcare workers and the people with underlying health conditions, he said.
As there still won't be enough jabs for everyone, social distancing and mask wearing will continue to be important Covid-prevention measures, he said.
Twenty-six million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca will arrive some time between May and June and another 35 million doses will then follow, said the premier.
While a similar Covid-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson is still pending FDA registration for emergency use in Thailand, the government is also in talks with Moderna Inc and Pfizer over the registration of their vaccines for use here, said Gen Prayut.
FDA secretary-general Paisarn Dunkum confirmed the registration of the Sinovac shot will we done on time.
Johnson & Johnson was supplying more documentation to support its request for the registration of its Covid-19 vaccine, while Moderna had enquired about the vaccination registration process, said Dr Paisarn.
From this month until around May, the Covid-19 vaccine will be administered to healthcare workers and at-risk groups in areas where the outbreak situation is rated as critical, said Dr Apisamai Srirangson, assistant spokeswoman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
And later from June until December, the vaccination programme will cover more groups of people, especially those living in popular tourist destinations, she said.