Dept urges seniors to get two booster jabs this year

Dept urges seniors to get two booster jabs this year

The Department of Disease Control is urging senior citizens and individuals with chronic diseases to get two doses of Covid-19 vaccine this year as a precaution against coronavirus infections.

DDC chief Tares Krassanairawiwong said the elderly and those living with chronic conditions should get a booster ahead of the upcoming rainy season, and another before the cooler weather arrives towards the end of the year.

The timing corresponds with the times in the year when cases of seasonal flu tend to spike, Dr Tares said, adding the department has prepared 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine for the targeted groups.

"As we estimate only a small number of healthy individuals will come in for a booster this year, we should have enough stock for the year, even for tourists who might need it," he said. "All people living in Thailand can still get a free shot."

The DDC's recommendation comes in the wake of China's decision to reopen its borders on Jan 8, which authorities believe will lead to a spike in the number of Chinese travellers visiting the country.

He said while most will come for business and leisure, many are planning to visit to purchase a booster shot here, as China has not allowed the use of mRNA vaccines.

As such, the National Communicable Diseases Committee yesterday agreed that tourists will be able to purchase a Pfizer shot for 1,000 baht from state hospitals nationwide, while an AstraZeneca shot is priced at 800 baht. The price excludes an outpatient fee of 380 baht.

To promote the scheme, the ministry launched a pilot project with some hospitals in major cities including Lerdsin Hospital and Nopparat Rajathanee Hospital in Bangkok, Chiang Mai Neurological Hospital in Chiang Mai and Pattayarak Health Unit in Chon Buri. Public health authorities in Phuket will set designated areas where tourists can purchase a vaccine.

The committee also set up a sub-committee on Covid-19 prevention, chaired by the ministry's permanent secretary Opas Karnkawinpong. The sub-committee will monitor the spread of Covid-19 among foreign tourists.

To prepare for the expected surge of cases once tourist numbers return to pre-pandemic levels, the committee urged all Thais citizens, especially those working in the hospitality industry, to ensure their Covid-19 vaccinations are up to date.

Separately, Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, said that since the ministry found older generation Covid vaccines are just as effective as newer generation jabs, the ministry won't procure the updated vaccines for the time being.

If needed, however, the ministry won't hesitate to order them, he noted.

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