Big rollout fosters hope of light at the end of the tunnel

Big rollout fosters hope of light at the end of the tunnel

Special report: Mass vaccinations kick off with collective effort and optimism that Covid can be beaten

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha watches as a jab is administered at Bang Sue Grand Station. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill
PM Prayut Chan-o-cha watches as a jab is administered at Bang Sue Grand Station. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

U-ree Dechdamrong, 78, a retired nurse, woke up at 5am as usual on Monday for her regular morning walk to boost her circulation. However, it was also to be the day she would receive her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Ms U-ree told the Bangkok Post that she had registered via the Mor Prom app a long time ago and been assigned to the vaccination point at Bang Sue Grand Station.

The woman was accompanied by her daughter for the afternoon appointment. On arrival at 12.30pm, she was greeted and then taken care of by a volunteer staff member throughout the whole process.

"I felt okay as the place is very clean and the staff are so kind. I was in an even better mood after I was vaccinated within 10 minutes of walking in. Afterwards they sat me in the waiting area for half an hour to make sure there were no side effects. I was in and out and on my way home in just 45 minutes," she said.

Ms U-ree was among thousands of people who on Monday flocked to Bang Sue Grand Station which is among the venues being used as temporary vaccination centres in the capital. Her age put Ms U-ree at the front of the queue, along with those suffering from any of seven particular underlying health complaints, as the government officially began its nationwide vaccination campaign.

According to an official at the temporary hub, the Bang Sue centre alone expected to have administered 10,000 jabs by the end of the first day.

The atmosphere was one of nervous excitement, with people well behaved and following all of the now-familiar pandemic protocols, but the feeling of relief that the end may finally be in sight was palpable.

Nichada Sarnthawanpat, the current dean of Praboromarajchanok Institute Nursing School in Nonthaburi, was also on hand to dust off her qualifications as a practising nurse and help with the vaccination drive.

She said she was not alone in the higher education community in wishing to make a return to the frontline to help out.

"Although we're the teachers now, today we're taking off our gowns and putting our doctors' and nurses' uniforms back on to help the nation," she said, adding that it was largely the AstraZeneca formula that was being used and most who presented were having their first of the two required shots.

"We try to be as efficient as possible when we work because the vaccines are only usable for around 30 minutes once they are taken removed from cold storage,'' she said.

Sorapong Paitoonphong, deputy permanent secretary for transport, said the station had been chosen because of its size and ventilation, as well being a a convenient transport hub.

"In addition, the terminal isn't due to open until December, so I think it is the right time and the right place to help to save the country during a crisis," Mr Sorapong said.

During the coming days, 33,500 teachers and educational staff will come here to be vaccinated, he added.

"Yesterday, everyone was swab tested and the whole place was disinfected from top to bottom. I've been doing my part and personally inspecting the centre every day too," he said.

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