Vaccine policy switch leaves health services confused

Vaccine policy switch leaves health services confused

Should the second shot for recipients of Sinovac vaccine be the AstraZeneca vaccine? (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
Should the second shot for recipients of Sinovac vaccine be the AstraZeneca vaccine? (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

Hospitals and health offices have been left confused over the mixing of doses of Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines after the prime minister questioned the Health Ministry's latest policy to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The provincial health office in Nonthaburi on Wednesday opted to postpone its plan to give  people who have received a single dose of the Sinovac vaccine a dose of AstraZeneca as their second jab.

Some private and public hospitals in Chiang Mai, including Hang Dong Hospital, announced they would provide no vaccination service on Wednesday. 

Nonthaburi was the first province to adopt the ministry's new policy after it was endorsed by the National Communicable Disease Committee on Monday. The panel was chaired by Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

Nonthaburi announced its decision on Tuesday, only to immediately suspend its implementation on Wednesday morning.

In Chiang Mai, the provincial public health office also announced its suspension. "In order to end the confusion, all health units are ordered to stop vaccine service on July 14, 2021," Hang Dong Hospital posted the message on its Facebook account.

Mr Anutin said after the committee meeting on Monday that mixing the Sinovac for the first dose with AstraZeneca for the second would yield a better defence against the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus first detected in India.

However, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha called for a thorough study of the jab policy shift during Tuesday's teleconferenced cabinet meeting, to take into consideration the safety of vaccine recipients.

The prime minister's reaction followed a warning from the World Health Organization on Monday that indviduals should not mix and match different vaccines.

"Individuals should not decide for themselves, public health agencies can, based on available data. Data from mix and match studies of different vaccines are awaited -- immunogenicity and safety both need to be evaluated," WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.

Respected virus expert Yong Poovorawan on Tuesday was adamant using Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines in series was safe and effective and Thailand's best option for fighting the fast-spreading Delta variant.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri on Wednesday explained that the prime minister did not order the plan cancelled, but he hoped the committee to be open for more reactions first.

The government's priority was to see more people inoculated, as that would reduce the rate of daily fatalities and new infections, he said.

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