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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Expert: Half of Thailand infected in 100 days without vaccines

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: An expert urges if we don't stop exporting AstraZeneca, half of Thailand could get Covid-19. (via Flickr Marco Verch)

Amid the growing outcry from the scientific community to reroute AstraZeneca vaccines set for export to urgently vaccinate people in Thailand, one expert warns of the harrowing possibility that half of Thailand’s 70 million people could get Covid-19 if we don’t vaccinate at least 40 million people within the next 100 days.

Dr Manoon Leechawengwongs, a leading expert and specialist in respiratory diseases at Vichaiyut Hospital, took to Facebook to join the growing cry from experts urging the government to stop exporting AstraZeneca produced in Thailand. The post called for PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to call on powers he can assume under the National Security Act to bar Siam Bioscience, a company wholly owned by a subsidiary of Crown Property Bureau, from exporting the vaccine they produce in Thailand.

2 main hurdles stand in opposition to diverting vaccines for domestic use. First, since the Siam Bioscience is merely the production company, AstraZeneca Thailand may be the one making the call. Second, numerous other countries in Southeast Asia have contracted vaccine deliveries that would be cancelled, which could have detrimental effects on the battle against Covid in those countries. And while Covid-19 needs to be tackled globally to make the world fully safe again, many argue that any country would take care of domestic needs first if they were in Thailand’s position.

He suggests a 3-month ban to divert the vaccines to the vaccination efforts within Thailand that desperately needs to accelerate to combat the Covid-19 pandemic spreading to record numbers throughout the country. The doctor suggests 500,000 people need to be vaccinated per day to prevent mass infections on a much larger scale.

Manoon referred to a Canadian study that showed the AstraZeneca vaccine to be 87% effective in preventing death from the Delta variant, the main strain infecting Thailand. He blames the government’s mismanagement of vaccine procurement and distribution led to the shortages Thailand is experiencing now and only a ban on exports will help beef up the number of available vaccines.

Siam Bioscience produces 10 to 15 million vaccines in Thailand each month but exports a large percentage of those manufactured. Manoon believes if Thailand received the full capacity for the next 3 months it could reduce hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 by as much as 80%.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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