BURI RAM: The province's police chief, Rutthaphol Naowarat, on Monday clarified reports that 11 of its officers were given AstraZeneca jabs as a booster shot, saying the officers were in charge of transporting Covid-19 patients and were considered frontline workers.
Pol Maj Gen Rutthapol also said the decision was made by public health officials, not the police force.
He explained that the officers, who are attached to Ban Mai Chai Pot police station, had voluntarily signed up for the task of transporting Covid-19 patients. They had to be given booster shots to ensure sufficient protection against the disease, just like frontline workers, he said.
The Buri Ram police chief had earlier ordered the superintendent of Ban Mai Chai Pot police station, Su-ake Chinthanasap, to clarify the matter after netizens took to social media to question if police officers, along with frontline workers, should be given booster shots ahead of the public.
In a statement, Pol Col Su-ake said the district's public health office chief had asked the station to assist in transporting Covid-19 patients who needed treatment in the province, as well as Bangkok residents who chose to be treated in their home areas.
Eleven officers signed up for the work, the statement said, and due to the high-risk nature of the assignment, the district's public health office decided that they must be treated as frontline workers and given booster jabs.
In total, 40 local officials, health volunteers and police officers signed up for the assignment — all of whom have already received a booster shot.
Buri Ram's health office said 7,964 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been set aside as booster shots for frontline medical personnel and workers. In total, it said, 3,533 people received a booster shot.
The office said the booster shots were necessary in order to protect frontline workers from newer, more infectious variants of Covid-19, which is in line with the Public Health Ministry's instruction dated July 9.
In order to clear up any misunderstanding on the issue, Buri Ram governor Thatchakorn Hatthathayakul said on Monday he will order an investigation to determine if officers at Ban Mai Chai Pot station abused their position to receive a booster shot.
After the reports attracted public attention, former election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn criticised the Bhumjaithai Party — which controls the Public Health Ministry — over the unfair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.
On Facebook, he questioned why Buri Ram was allocated large amounts of Covid-19 vaccines, despite it not being considered a high-risk province or a major tourism destination planning to reopen to tourists soon.
"Now, a group of policemen in a small district in the province were given booster doses, when 85% of Thais have yet to get any. It only goes to show the privilege the province has and political intervention in the vaccine rollout," he wrote, referring to Buri Ram's status as a stronghold of the government coalition.