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PM hits back at criticism of vaccine rollout, threatens to hold critics responsible for delays

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The Thai PM has hit back at opposition politicians who have criticised the national vaccine rollout, warning them that any delays with delivery will be their fault. Responding to Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, an MP from the Move Forward Party who questioned delivery timescales, Prayut Chan-o-cha warned critics not to politicise the matter.

“I am concerned that comments on the vaccines will cause problems. I don’t want it to be politicised. You have to be careful. If we cannot get what has been agreed upon because of this, you must accept responsibility.”

According to a Bangkok Post report, Wiroj says the delays in getting adequate vaccine doses into the country will have a significant impact on economic recovery.

“According to an estimate from the government, if the vaccine rollout is too slow by one month, the economic losses will amount to about 250 billion baht a month. Therefore, each day the government delays its rollout, the country will lose 8.3 billion baht, or 347 million baht per hour. The vaccination is not only about preventing the outbreak – its importance also lies in ensuring a faster economic recovery and easing the plight of Thais nationwide.”

The PM says the government is fully aware of the financial hardship being endured by people and is busy trying to solve those problems.

“I have to listen to doctors and make sure vaccines arrive as soon as possible. I don’t want any delay. However, I insist Thailand has done a better job of controlling Covid-19 than several other countries, and we’re still trying to do even better.”

He adds that once Thailand is producing its own Covid-19 vaccine, things will improve. Thailand’s vaccine is due to begin first stage human trials next month, with the use of 210 volunteers. The second phase will begin in April and will involve 250 volunteers, followed by phase 3 before the end of the year.

Wiroj’s criticism was not only reserved for the delay in vaccine delivery, he has also questioned the government’s procurement decisions, asking why vaccines weren’t purchased from the Chinese firm, Sinopharm, which used the same technology as the government’s chosen supplier, Sinovac. It’s understood the Sinopharm jab was approved for general use in December, demonstrating an efficacy of over 79% in phase 3 trials. Meanwhile, there is still no phase 3 trial data for the Sinovac jab.

The MP also slammed the decision not to join the vaccine procurement programme organised by the World Health Organistation. Wiroj says many richer countries, such as Canada, Norway, and Australia, have joined the Covax programme, along with many EU countries.

The government has responded to accusations that Thailand is the only South-East Asian nation to not join Covax, by pointing out that the Kingdom is not eligible for free or low-cost vaccine doses. As a “middle-income” country, Thailand would have to pay full price, without knowing which vaccines might be delivered or when. Spokesman Anucha Buraphachaisri says Thailand opted out of joining Covax in order to sign its own deals with chosen manufacturers as by law, the government can’t spend money on vaccines where there is no proof of efficacy.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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