Lampang leads provincial race for herd immunity

Lampang leads provincial race for herd immunity

Health officials address residents at a temple in Lampang about the importance of Covid-19 vaccination on Thursday. (Photo from Lampang Covid-19 Information Centre Facebook account)
Health officials address residents at a temple in Lampang about the importance of Covid-19 vaccination on Thursday. (Photo from Lampang Covid-19 Information Centre Facebook account)

Lampang is quietly running neck-and-neck with Phuket in the race for herd immunity against Covid-19, allowing the northern province to contemplate a return to business as usual.

With the spotlight on the vaccination campaign to restore Phuket as an international tourist destination, this little-visited province southeast of Chiang Mai is also moving forward with its inoculation drive.

Surprisingly, Lampang is second only to Bangkok in the number of people booking Covid-19 vaccinations.

The capital has seen 700,000 people register for vaccines as of Sunday, and the northern province is in second place with 240,000.

That number means a third of Lampang's 740,000 residents have already applied for their jabs. The province is striving for some 500,000, or about 70% of the population, to be inoculated in order to create herd immunity.

The percentage of the population that needs to be vaccinated in order to create herd immunity varies with the disease, according to the World Health Organization. Several health bodies have said herd immunity against the coronavirus should be reached at around 70%.

"We are determined to see markets, trade and other activities in Lampang back to the levels before the Covid crisis. In theory, we need to create herd immunity [for that to happen]," provincial governor Narongsak Osottnakorn said in an interview with CU Radio on Thursday.

Mr Narongsak is best known for his leadership in an international operation to rescue 13 people trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai in 2018.

Lampang's proactive public relations efforts, including sending health workers to knock on every door to persuade residents to get the jab and help them register for it, have contributed to the high number of people already on the waiting list.

The province can administer about 6,000 vaccinations per day, meaning herd community could be reached within three months -- putting Lampang at the same pace as Phuket.

The southern island province, heavily promoted by the government in a bid to win back international tourists, plans to have 70% of people vaccinated by July 1, allowing it to reopen to foreign arrivals. About 100,000 more doses of Covid-19 vaccines have already been delivered to Phuket.

With Phuket being prioritised, Lampang hopes its herd immunity plan will not be stymied by a dearth of doses.  

"The only worry for us is whether or not the central government will supply us with sufficient vaccines," the governor told Chulalongkorn University's radio channel.

Lampang stood at 43rd among provinces hit by the third wave of the coronavirus, according to Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration data updated on Sunday. The province has registered 250 infections and one death since the new surge began last month.

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