The first Covid-19 vaccine to be given to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is made by AstraZeneca, according to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
“It’s important that Gen Prayut take the first Covid-19 vaccine shot because he is the country’s leader. There will naturally be a risk-assessment process by the Disease Control Department, which is an internationally accepted standard procedure. But it’s not discrimination,” Mr Anutin said on Tuesday.
The minister apparently wanted to clear the confusion on the previous day, when Gen Prayut said he would take the first shot to boost confidence in the vaccine among people.
A doctor later warned the first lot of vaccine to arrive in Thailand on Wednesday, the Chinese-made Sinovac, had been tested only on the age group of 18-59 and its efficacy and side effects are not known in other age groups.
Since Gen Prayut is 67, the vaccine is apparently not for him.
Mr Anutin said on Tuesday the doses to arrive in Thailand on Wednesday were from two manufacturers — 117,000 from AstraZeneca and an unspecified number of Sinovac.
“Had there not been any drama, the vaccine would have arrived sooner,” he said.
He did not elaborate but activist Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit had earlier criticised the country’s vaccine plan for being “too little, too late”. The Move Forward Party linked to Mr Thanathorn also brought up the issue during the no-confidence debate last week.
The shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday came as a surprise since no imported doses of the vaccine had been on the plan.
“Gen Prayut will receive the vaccine with no age restrictions — AstraZeneca. The director of the National Vaccine Insitute had procured them. The date has not been set yet for the shot but the prime minister will be able to perform his duty normally after taking it,” said Mr Anutin.
He added the intervals were 14-28 days for Sinovac and six weeks for AstraZeneca. Both require a two-dose regimen.
The vaccination will take place initially at medical facilities. People will have to wait 30 minutes after taking the shots to observe symptoms.
According to the original plans, the first lot of vaccines to arrive is 200,000 doses of Sinovac on Wednesday, followed by 800,000 doses in March and 1 million more in April.
The rest of the vaccine for Thais in 2021 will be AstraZeneca made locally by Siam Bioscience, available from June to August (26 million) and September to December (35 million).