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Top virologist Yong faces backlash for Covid-19 suggestions

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Dr Yong Poovorawan, Thailand's top virologist, faces backlash over Covid-19 vaccines. (via Wikimedia)

Dr Yong Poovorawan, head of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University and Thailand’s top virologist has recently come under fire for missteps in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. A petition on Change.org has garnered about 10,000 signatures calling for his removal from the University Centre as those opposed to his recent actions and suggestions question his credibility and ethics.

The online petition was started anonymously by a doctor who says suggestions like lengthening the gap between first and second doses of AstraZeneca to 16 weeks are irresponsible. A 16-week window lacks any scientific data on the efficacy of vaccinations in those conditions.

Yong also caused outrage for his support and recommendation of a third booster shot of the Sinovac vaccine in the face of more Covid-19 outbreaks and the emergence of the resistant Delta variant as a prominent strain in Thailand. Critics say that Yong should be advocating for Thailand to import other brands of vaccines that have been proven more effective against the Delta variant.

The government stands behind Yong as chief medical advisor, with Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul quick to come to his defence. Anutin fires back that the job of Yong is not to endorse one Covid-19 vaccine but rather to strategise vaccination plans to best protect the people of Thailand.

“He is totally reputable and has the interests of the country at heart. He has no vested interests.”

Prominent doctors and alumni of his alma mater Chulalongkorn University have come out in support of Dr Yong, and some in the government accused the attacks against him of being politically motivated. Yong himself has been noticeably quiet in addressing the controversy and instead continues to make recommendations on actions regarding vaccinations and Covid-19 infections.

Yong has the credentials to hold such an influential position and suggest Covid-19 policy, having studied at Triam Udom Suksa School and Chulalongkorn’s Faculty of Medicine where he received a bachelor’s in medicine. He lectured at Chulalongkorn and took a research Fellowship in England at the King’s College Hospital Medical School in the 80s before returning back to his home university to continue teaching.

He expanded into virology pioneering studies on hepatitis B leading to newborn vaccinations for the first time in Thailand. He was named Thailand’s most outstanding researcher in medical science in 1997, and later became a top voice in Thailand’s dealing with previous viral outbreaks like SARS, bird flu, and H1N1.

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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