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Thai businesses frustrated over limited choice of vaccines, slow pace of rollout



PHOTO: Pixabay

Business and tourism representatives are expressing growing anger over the slow pace of Thailand’s vaccine rollout and the limited number of vaccines on offer. Their frustration comes as other countries around the world begin to see encouraging results from their vaccination efforts. And, while the latest rise in Covid-19 infections can be partly attributed to the presence of the so-called UK variant, businesses say the biggest factor is the government’s failure to vaccinate people sooner.

The Bangkok Post reports that, by April 7, only 323,989 vaccine doses had been administered in Thailand. That equates to half a dose per 100 people. A University of Oxford project – Our World in Data – shows that only 0.4% of the Thai population has been vaccinated so far.

Thailand is in 8th position among the ASEAN nations, behind Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. Israel leads worldwide, having administered 114 doses per 100 people, with 59% of the population vaccinated.

So far, Thailand is wholly reliant on just 2 vaccine suppliers: the Chinese-made Sinovac and AstraZeneca. 2 million doses of Sinovac and 61 million of AstraZeneca have been ordered. However, in an unprecedented admission, a top disease prevention official in China recently described the effectiveness of the country’s vaccines as low.

Tourism representatives in Thailand say there is already growing concern about the effectiveness of the vaccines being used. Nantanittaya Sesaweech from the Horizon Village and Resort in Chiang Mai, says having more choice will boost people’s confidence, adding that people who can afford to pay for them should have the option of doing so through the private sector.

“Even though the government rolled out a re-opening timeline for international tourists, which may have sparked hopes for operators, there is no concrete plan to adequately distribute vaccines to local populations. There is no hope for us until mass inoculation actually begins.”

Charintip Tiyaphorn from the Pimalai Resort and Spa on the island of Koh Lanta in Krabi, says the planned re-opening to vaccinated tourists could be delayed if the country remains dependent on government vaccines.

“Vaccines are the only way to get ahead of the pandemic and allow tourism to survive. Mass vaccinations will help accelerate the re-opening process, which projected being fully open by January next year.”

That sentiment is echoed by Supant Mongkolsuthree from the Federation of Thai Industries, who says the government must fast track vaccine supplies for the private sector.

“We have to admit the government is too slow in distributing vaccines. We want less legal regulations, especially those involving the Food and Drug Administration, to quickly acquire vaccines from abroad.”

Last week, the government confirmed that private hospitals would be allowed to procure and administer up to 10 million vaccine doses. But with demand outstripping supply worldwide, the issue now will be getting them.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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