Govt defends jab handling in rural areas

Govt defends jab handling in rural areas

The Public Health Ministry has come to the defence of its vaccine distribution plan, after it was criticised by the Rural Doctor Society for flooding remote hospitals with Covid-19 jabs which nobody wanted.

The association slammed the government's jab distribution in a Facebook post on Sunday, saying remote hospitals are struggling to administer the 16.79 million doses of Covid vaccines which they have received from health authorities.

The post claimed that out of the 16.79 million doses the hospitals have received, 1.17 million are Sinovac jabs -- which the majority of rural recipients do not want -- while the rest are AstraZeneca (9.76 million) and Pfizer (5.86 million), which are seeing reduced demand in the face of newer vaccines. The figures, RDS noted, do not include leftovers from prior shipments which have yet to expire.

As such, the RDS urged the government to revert to its previous distribution plan, which saw vaccines shipped to hospitals depending on their demand. The association said as these vaccines have to be kept in specialised refrigerated units to remain viable, the government should let rural hospitals finish their vaccine stocks first to prevent waste.

In response to the criticism, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the decision to send more vaccines to remote hospitals was taken to promote the uptake of booster shots in rural areas.

"We want to ensure each hospital has all the vaccines they need, especially since the Covid pandemic is not over yet," he said, noting many people living in rural areas have yet to receive their first shot because they weren't able to get the jab they wanted at their nearest hospital.

"These travel costs add to their expenses, as they must get more than one shot to complete their vaccination. We want to encourage them to get jabs by ensuring local medical facilities have all the options the residents wanted."

Mr Anutin said distribution of the jabs to tambon health promotion hospitals was approved a month ago by the ministry's emergency operations centre to address low vaccination rates among the rural population.

"We all want to live a normal life. For that, we need those who have yet to receive any vaccine shot to get one and for others who have yet to register for a booster to get one," he said.

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