Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will get the first shot of Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca on Sunday while Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul will receive the vaccine from Sinovac.
Dr Sopon Mekthon, chairman of the government's sub-committee on Covid-19 vaccine management, said Gen Prayut and Mr Anutin were scheduled to be vaccinated at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute on Sunday. This follows the Department of Medical Sciences approving the release of the jabs and efficacy certificates for the vaccines from the companies, Dr Sopon said. Vaccination for priority groups in targeted provinces will start on Monday with details to be provided by the Department of Disease Control, he said.
Sources said doctors recommended that Gen Prayut be inoculated with the viral vector vaccine from AstraZeneca, while Mr Anutin and Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha would receive vaccines from Sinovac.
Quick shot in the arm: Nurses rehearse the Covid-19 vaccine administration process at Bang Khunthian Hospital for the Elderly before the inoculation programme kicks off nationwide on Monday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Mr Anutin on Thursday told village health volunteers nationwide via teleconference that the arrival of 317,600 doses of vaccines from the two companies on Wednesday bodes well for Thailand's success in combating Covid. "The vaccines are for Thais and those living in the country,'' Mr Anutin said, adding the first batch of vaccines are free of charge with the government paying for them and other management costs. "Anyone who charges for the vaccine will face legal action," the minister said.
He said the 200,000 doses from Sinovac were delivered to Thailand under the terms agreed upon between Thailand and the company, while the delivery of 117,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine was the result of negotiations by National Vaccine Institute director Dr Nakorn Premsri, and permanent secretary for public health Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit.
The shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine came as a surprise since there had been no mention before of that make being imported. The delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine was a back-up plan in case the other company failed to come through, Mr Anutin said. Another 800,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine will arrive from China next month and 1 million more in April, he said.
The balance of vaccines for Thais in 2021 will be AstraZeneca's, made locally by Siam Bioscience, with 26 million doses to be available from May to June and a further 35 million doses afterwards, he said.
Dr Nakorn said on Thursday the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine was ahead of schedule because the Public Health Ministry and the company shared a common goal of containing the second wave of the outbreak so Thailand would recover quickly from the crisis. The cooperation from AstraZeneca allowed Thailand quicker access to vaccines than the original schedule and the vaccines which were shipped to Thailand came from the company's global production line, and in line with its commitment to ensuring wide and equal access to Covid-19 vaccines, Dr Nakorn said.
"The AstraZeneca vaccines that arrived in Thailand must receive a lot release certificate from the Department of Medical Sciences before distribution to priority groups designated by the Department of Disease Control," Dr Nakorn said.
He also said the AstraZeneca vaccine was the first Covid-19 vaccine to receive the Food and Drug Administration's conditional approval for emergency use on Jan 20. On Feb 15, the World Health Organisation also listed AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, enabling global access to the vaccine, Dr Nakorn added.
Thares Karasnairaviwong, director-general of the Department of Health Service Support, said more than 1.5 million village health volunteers were instructed to educate people about the Covid-19 vaccination. They were also told to find out the number of people in the priority groups which will get the vaccines and send the information to provincial communicable disease committees to work on the distribution of vaccines, Dr Thares said.