Thailand’s plan to milk 2 extra vaccines from each vial of AstraZeneca may have seemed shady, though the technique to do so was safe and did not reduce efficacy, but yesterday the government dropped an actual dangerous plan to cut corners and pump up their vaccination figures. A senior health official confirmed that they were giving up on a plan to boost statistics of how many people have received a vaccine by delaying second AstraZeneca shots to a 16-week gap and instead administering those shots to new patients first.
The government had planned to give people their first dose of AstraZeneca and then wait 16 weeks before administering their second dose. The maximum tested interval between the first and second vaccines is 12 weeks, approved by the European Medicines Agency. So the Thai plan would buy the government a month to give first injections to more waiting people before having to give second doses, thus driving up their figures for who has received at least one vaccines.
The 16-week gap plan could make better-looking statistics but also runs the risk of rendering all the AstraZeneca first vaccines administered essentially useless. No human trials have been conducted on the efficacy of the 2 dose vaccines when administered 16 weeks apart, a full month beyond the maximum gap approved.
Maybe because of this risk, the government backed down on the 16-week plan and will now administer the second dose of AstraZeneca within 10 to 12 weeks of the first dose. The communicable disease committee wants to switch back to their original plan, but the assistant to the Public Health Minister commented that the interval between vaccines could still be extended down the road if needed.
The need to stretch out vaccinations with moves like the 16-week gap distribution has come after local manufacturing of AstraZeneca by Siam Bioscience has stalled with delivery dates pushed back in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Shortages have been reported throughout the country and provinces are prioritising and rationing doses.
Thailand has given 7.2 million injections of Covid-19 vaccines since February, but delays continue. The big push for vaccination on June 7 fell short as supplies quickly ran out and appointments were put on hold indefinitely, as production didn’t meet deadlines.
Instead, a new goal of 10 million vaccines a month starting in July was announced and should run about 6 months to meet the 61 million vaccines AstraZeneca guaranteed. 105.5 million total vaccines have been ordered this year, with 50 million more being negotiated for next year.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post