Nation will use AstraZeneca, despite blood-clot fears

Nation will use AstraZeneca, despite blood-clot fears

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha shows a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine before being inoculation against Covid-19 at Government House in Bangkok on March 16. (Government House photo)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha shows a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine before being inoculation against Covid-19 at Government House in Bangkok on March 16. (Government House photo)

The AstraZeneca vaccine will be the mainstay for the state's Covid-19 vaccination programme, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul says.

"There are many factors for each country whether to use or not use the vaccine," Mr Anutin said. "But we have expertise to closely monitor the vaccine information.

"We base decisions on scientific knowledge, not news. If something happens, we will let the public know. Please do not worry about it."

Thailand has relied on using 71 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and two million doses of CoronaVac developed by China-based Sinovac Biotech to inoculate about 35 million people or 50% of the population. The ministry will start the Covid-19 jab rollout this June and aims to have 50% of the population immunised by the end of this year.

However, the authority is struggling to deal with trust and fear following unfavourable news about the risk of blood clots. Denmark this week became the first country to stop using AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine altogether, as European officials investigate dozens of reports of very rare blood clots combined with low platelet counts that have arisen in the bloc, as well as Britain.

The WHO along with Britain and the European Medicines Agency continues to recommend AstraZeneca's shot on the grounds that its benefits outweigh any risks.

Meanwhile, in England, the vaccine is the main staple for the country's inoculation effort to create herd immunity. Mr Anutin said the UK could see Covid cases drop substantially. Some believe the country has already created herd immunity.

The ministry, he said, set a goal to inoculate all medical staff within one month using part of one million doses of Sinovac Biotech, which is expected to arrive in Thailand next week. The vaccine will mostly be given to medical staff and essential front-line workers and volunteers nationwide.

As of now, Thai authorities have administered 581,308 doses from both brands to about 290,000 people. Two people -- one a senior monk with chronic heart disease and a 41-year-old man also with coronary problems -- died after getting shots. The ministry ruled out any link to the vaccines.

Tares Krassanairawiwong, director-general of the Department of Health Service Support, said on Thursday over 3,700 out of 6,525 beds reserved to accommodate Covid-19 patients have been occupied.

Suitable and vacant hotels are being contacted to serve as hospitals that will accommodate patients with mild and improving symptoms. So far, 23 hotels with a capacity of 4,900 beds have joined and 2,000 beds have been occupied.

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