Kingdom to order 18m vaccine doses

Kingdom to order 18m vaccine doses

Vulnerable groups to be prioritised

The National Vaccine Committee yesterday announced a plan to provide Covid-19 vaccine doses next year to 18 million members of vulnerable groups, including frontline medical staff and local health volunteers.

Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, permanent secretary of the Public Health Ministry, said the government provided 143 million Covid-19 vaccine doses in the past two years, preventing people from developing severe symptoms and saving at least 500,000 people's lives.

He said at the moment, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet issued a recommendation on how to administer the vaccine next year. The WHO is still determining the number of shots one person should have and which groups should be prioritised, he said.

The committee has its own procedure to follow, similar to its influenza vaccination drive, where Covid-19 shots are given to seniors, people living with chronic diseases, toddlers aged between six months and four years old, frontline medical staff and local health volunteers.

"We are also considering the possibility of giving the vaccine to other groups based on additional information we will have," he said.

The committee will allow local administrative organisations to purchase the Covid-19 vaccine next year, he said. The National Vaccine Institute will look into the criteria and regulations before allowing the organisations to make an order, he said.

Meanwhile, Nakorn Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute, said the committee has also acknowledged progress in local agencies' Covid-19 vaccine research and development.

Dr Nakorn said local vaccine development will be very important because it can help save procurement costs in the future.

Yong Poovorawan, head of the Centre of Excellence in clinical Virology at the Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, posted on his Facebook page yesterday, saying those who received two vaccine doses do not yet count as being "fully vaccinated".

It must be three shots regardless of what type of vaccine was received, Dr Yong said.

About 70% of the population is estimated to at some point contract the disease. Considering the large number of people vaccinated against the disease, those who are infected today may only display mild symptoms, he said.

Boosters are important to enhance immunity, especially among senior citizens, those with chronic sickness and small children, he said, adding they should be prioritised for booster shots next year.

Meanwhile, the Department of Disease Control reported yesterday that the number of deaths among Covid-19 patients in the country was lower than expected due to people's willingness to respect mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing, and vaccination.

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