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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Vaccines bring hope, but we won’t be out of the woods for some time – Thai health officials

Maya Taylor



PHOTO: Shutterstock

Health officials in Thailand have welcomed the development of a number of seemingly-effective Covid-19 vaccines but warn that the “new normal” will remain for some time. In an interview with the Bangkok Post, Opas Karnkawinpong from the Department of Disease Control says people will still have to wear masks, observe social distancing, and wash their hands regularly.

“The challenge posed by Covid-19 is new and we have no playbook for it. No one knows whether these vaccines will work or how long the immunity will last. It is a learning process and scientists around the world can only watch and learn at the moment. Until the ministry is convinced the vaccination is effective and safe, restrictions will remain. And even after that, the easing will be gradual. The government must inoculate more than 50% of the population, then assess whether herd immunity kicks in.”

Opas confirms that, once available, the vaccine will be administered for free – at least for Thai residents. Certain groups will receive priority based on their risk level. The government has already committed to speeding up the vaccination timeline, as Thailand finds itself battling a resurgence of the virus. This will be the biggest vaccination drive ever carried out in the Kingdom.

Opas points out that, while administering the vaccine to tens of millions of people is a challenge in itself, the real test will be in monitoring what happens afterwards. He says it must be made clear to people that 1 shot is not enough and they must return for a second. Data will also need to be gathered to ascertain the vaccine’s effectiveness and how long protection lasts.

Thailand is due to take delivery of 200,000 vaccine doses from China at the end of next month, followed by increased supplies in March and April. Healthcare workers in provinces considered high-risk will be first in line, as well as border patrol officials and vulnerable members of society.

A full national roll-out is not expected to take place before May, with the arrival of 26 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with the UK’s Oxford University. In addition, the government is in talks to procure a further 35 million doses shortly after. Both sides have also signed a technology-transfer agreement that gives manufacturing rights to the Thai firm, Siam Bioscience.

Meanwhile, Dr Nakorn Premsri from the National Vaccine Institute echoes the DDC’s note of caution.

“No vaccine is 100% effective. The influenza vaccine, for example, is only around 50% preventative. So, we can expect this vaccine only to reduce fatalities and relieve the symptoms. People must still take reasonable precautions. It won’t be until 2 years after most people are vaccinated that Covid-19 can no longer be considered an epidemic.”

He adds that in order for the Kingdom’s borders to reopen fully, officials should be aiming to vaccinate a minimum of 70% of residents in tourist areas.

Meanwhile, Sathit Pitutecha from the Public Health Ministry remains hopeful the vaccines will allow for the easing of some entry restrictions, including a wider choice of quarantine facilities, such as golf and spa resorts. However, experts agree it will be at least 2 years before revenue returns to what it was in pre-Covid times.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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  1. Avatar


    Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Lets start a wager….

    My bet is farang will be charged 20k for the free vaccine.

    Your guesses folks?

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 11:08 am

      Let’s not be quite so stupid, since the planned price at a private hospital for the far more expensive to buy, stock and transport mRNA vaccine is already known.

    • Avatar


      Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 11:12 am

      Silly discussion – let’s be thankful we are not in Europe or US – why not go home and get your free vaccine

    • Avatar


      Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 10:14 pm

      The vaccine is not free. The Thai government is paying for it and distributing it to its citizens for free. So if you’re not a Thai citizen then it’s not free for you. It’s free for you where you’re a citizen. So stop wining and pay the freight or go to your home country and get it. Stop with the Cheap Charlie behavior. You seem to have a sense of entitlement that doesn’t hunt in Thailand unless you can pay for it.

      The Thai government is trying to manage expectations and this is a CYA PR move. Under promise and over deliver.

  2. Avatar

    Issan John

    Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 11:14 am

    The most worrying thing about this isn’t so much when the vaccine will be available or the roll out system, as I’m confident of both, but the source of the “further 35 million doses” which is still to be confirmed.

    Astra Zeneca or Siam BioScience, great … China and Sinovac rather less so, despite approval in the UAE and bahrain.

    • Avatar


      Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 2:43 pm

      The board’s no1 fu1kwit has spoken.
      The Thai clown scientist said he doesn’t know if vaccines will be effective.
      WTF? What do they think all the trial data’s for?
      One thing is pretty certain though, vaccinating 50% of the population isn’t going to get herd immunity.
      Love your new board name by the way John.
      No doubt something you get one of the local Thai villagers to do on you, when you can scrap a few baht together.

      • Avatar


        Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 3:51 pm

        They don’t know if vaccinated people can transmit the virus or how long immunity lasts this was not part of the clinical trials studies are ongoing they released the vaccines early to protect the elderly and save lives I can live with that we will have to wait for further info before travel can commence

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 5:09 pm

        If you have the “trial data” for the Sinovac vaccine from the Phase 3 trials, maybe you could let everyone else in on the secret.

    • Avatar


      Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 10:20 pm

      You are way more confident of “roll out system” than I am. I hope you are right, but from my own experience no one should be confident of anything the Thai government does. They like most governments have the ability of screw up just about everything. I’ve had my dealings with the Thai medical system, it’s never gone smoothly, or quickly. Again, hope you are right. I too am worried about where these further 35M doses are coming from, the fact they didn’t say right away doesn’t bode well.

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 2:07 pm

        I’m basing my confidence on the tetanus vaccination system, which is tried, tested, simple, and works.

        Stick to that, and there shouldn’t be a problem. Otherwise … 🙁

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