Govt rolls out fourth Covid shot in 10 provinces

Govt rolls out fourth Covid shot in 10 provinces

A boy receives a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease vaccine at the Central Vaccination Center, inside the Bang Sue Grand Station, in Bangkok on Saturday. (Reuters photo)
A boy receives a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease vaccine at the Central Vaccination Center, inside the Bang Sue Grand Station, in Bangkok on Saturday. (Reuters photo)

The government is ramping up the rollout of fourth Covid-19 shots to residents in tourism-dependent regions as the nation gears up for border reopening next month.

Health officials are offering AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines in ten provinces to those who have received their third dose at least three months ago, the Public Health Ministry said. 

Authorities have already administered more than 800,000 fourth doses, mostly to healthcare workers and those in high-risk groups, official data showed. 

The ministry’s initial plan was to offer fourth Covid-19 shots only to medical and public health staff and people in vulnerable groups.

However, deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said on Sunday the Department of Disease Control plans to administer fourth doses to the general public in 10 provinces -- four popular tourist destinations and six others with relatively high infection rates. 

The four tourism-reliant provinces are Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi and Phangnga. The six others are either tourist destinations and/or provinces with high infection rates: Bangkok, Chonburi, Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi, Kanchanaburi and Pathum Thani.

The ministry's target is to inoculate 2.5 million residents of these provinces, both Thais and foreigners.

According to the ministry, the two major cross-vaccine formulas are: 

-People who had Sinovac for the first two doses and AstraZeneca for the third are recommended to receive AstraZeneca as the fourth dose. 

-People inoculated with two AstraZeneca shots and one follow-up of Pfizer are recommended to get Pfizer as the fourth dose.

Thailand is among a short list of countries including Chile and Israel that are offering the fourth shot.  

Officials said the rollout of the fourth dose would help the country’s efforts in providing some protection for local communities and in reopening its tourism sector. Starting on Feb 1, the country will resume the quarantine-free tourism programme that helped bring in some 350,000 visitors in two months, before the plan was temporarily suspended due to concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant.

About 17% of the country’s almost 70 million population have received three doses of vaccines, while 69% have received at least two shots. The government reported 7,139 new infections on Monday, a third straight day of decline. 

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