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PM takes over Thailand’s vaccine roll out. Public Health Minister found under bus – OPINION

Tim Newton




I went to register my name at a local private hospital in Phuket last Saturday for a place in the Covid vaccine queue. It was at the Bangkok Hospital Phuket. The first response from the reception area after the customary welcoming wai was “do you have insurance?”

I said yes, but that was not relevant to why I was here. I explained that I wanted to put my name on their Covid vaccine register as a former patient and enquire as to when they might expect to get deliveries of a vaccine.

The answer was clear. “I don’t know, nobody knows”. And, as far as we currently understand, that answer was correct.

For foreigners in Thailand, unless they happen to work for companies with “connections” or perhaps a public service that was earmarked in the first roll out of vaccines, the vast majority are doing more damage from scratching their heads at the moment.

We’ve contacted the Provincial Phuket Office in Phuket, and been told the same thing. Or “register at your hospital”.

The Thaiger has published numerous articles about the apparent vacillation of the government in regards to allowing private companies and hospitals to acquire their own stash of vaccines. First they could, then they couldn’t, then it was a “misunderstanding”, and then they could again, about 2 weeks ago.

But not ONE private hospital in Thailand currently has access to its own stocks of an approved Covid 19 vaccine. Not even unapproved vaccines, as far as we can tell. The Thai government are still putting up paperwork and red tape barriers preventing any private solutions to the country’s vaccine roll out.

Now I use the term “roll out” carefully. Because there hasn’t been a lot of rolling. There’s no doubt once the vaccines arrive on site there are plenty of front line doctors and nurses, and local organisers, who can efficiently and diligently administer the doses. That’s happened twice in Phuket and has now resulted in some 70,000 local people vaccinated. It’s happened in other places as well. But there’s certainly been no “military” precision (which you’d think these guys would be good at).

Somewhere between a current shortage of available vaccines, generally, and the Thai government being forced to sign off on any private orders, there has been no movement on the “private vaccine” front.

Dr Suwadee Puntpanich, a director at the Thonburi Hospital Group, told the Thai Enquirer that it’s currently “impossible for the private sector to bring in vaccines due to the government’s inaction”.

“We have sent numerous applications for vaccines to the Ministry of Public Health, to the minister, to the permanent secretary and have received no response”.

Given that the private medical sector would have contacts to negotiate and import drugs from international pharmaceutical companies, you’d think they’d be the government’s first phone call. But no. The government have established their own supply chains, dragging out the process until now we this third wave in Thailand and a vaccine roll out way behind peer nations and most of the rest of the world.

Last night the Thai PM decided to take control of the Kingdom’s vaccine roll out.

The Cabinet yesterday agreed to designate PM Prayut as the chief authority with responsibility for all decisions related to the pandemic. He will have sole responsibility for the country’s Communicable Disease Act, the Immigration Act, National Health Security Act, and the Medical Equipment Act, as well as several others. Critically, he will now be responsible for the procurement and distribution of vaccines, essential to combatting the outbreak in Thailand.

There has been some quite public friction between the PM and his outspoken Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul in recent weeks. This decision to take over the decision making in Thailand’s public health sphere is the equivalent to throwing his Bumjaithai party political partner under the bus.

Last week there was loud calls from opposition parties and social media for the resignation of the public health minister. Everything, from the shortage of hospital beds, the lack of vaccines, the decision to let Songkran go ahead, largely unfettered, and a slow reaction to the current outbreak have all fallen on the desk of Anutin.

The PM’s taking over of decision-making for Thailand’s public health at the moment may be an indication of strong, determined leadership. It’s also risky with Anutin pulling the strings on a rump of MPs that secured the PM his majority in the lower house following the 2019 general election.

A petition hosted on, demanding the resignation of Public Health Minister Anutin, has surpassed an initial target of 200,000 signatures. The target has now been increased to 300,000. 211,600 signatures have already been collected.

Also, as of this morning, the requests for signed paperwork from Thailand’s private hospital sector have remained unsigned.


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  1. Avatar


    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 9:29 am

    Thailand will never be a First World country. Never. But on vaccine roll out look at the EU, no better, playing politics with EU citizens’ lives and economy.

  2. Avatar


    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 9:36 am

    I just hope that once the private hospital will
    Purchase their own stock will live out The Chinese vaccine and sad to saying also AstraZeneca, will be discontinued in all Europe and others part of world very soon

  3. Avatar

    Henry Ford

    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 10:25 am

    The Thai Government has been taking advice from the EUSSR

  4. Avatar


    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 10:31 am

    Best to leave the country before they start to care about their foreign tourists again

  5. Avatar

    John Schnitzel

    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 11:09 am

    Wonder why that is… maybe the “expediting fees” are not channeled to the right officials to make this work.

  6. Avatar


    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 11:12 am

    Foreigners, why not fly back to get vaccinated ? which will be easier than to whine in a country short of vaccine

  7. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 11:35 am

    Yes a good title on a separate article would have been Vaccine Vacillation, Tim.
    I doubt you were surprised you could not register.
    I was surprised that the Thais were going to vaccinate ferangs for free!
    Even now I think they will slip in a ferang fee for “administration” at the last moment.
    I could quote many examples of Thai incompetence, but need not. Examples are revealed daily now.

  8. Avatar


    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 11:37 am

    Vaccines must be kept at extremely low temperature, lower than a regular home brand freezer. Do you trust Thai gov’t to handle it correctly?

  9. Avatar


    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    another PR excise similar to dropping of red bull charges and the watchman,there be no changes, saving face is most important ? by taking control of the virus roll out pm general has put himself in the firing line with nowhere to hide ?

  10. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 1:50 pm

    “For foreigners in Thailand, unless … the vast majority are doing more damage from scratching their heads at the moment.”

    Direct questions, @Tim.

    Why “for foreigners” ?

    Do you think Thais would have got a different answer, have any more access to vaccines, or are doing any less head scratching?

    Or that Thais wouldn’t be asked by a private hospital if they had health insurance?

    Or that Thais would expect a hospital receptionist to be privy to the government’s or even the hospital’s vaccination plans?

    Or is it just that some “foreigners” think they’re entitled to special treatment and don’t know how to handle it when they’re treated just like Thais?

    … and why should anyone “think these guys would be good at”…”military precision” when with the exception of the field hospitals and the PM (until now) none, literally none, have any more military experience and training than anyone else?

    Direct questions, @Tim.

  11. Avatar


    Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 3:59 pm

    then roll the crap out already you idiots

  12. Avatar

    Stafford Strange

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 3:34 pm

    Foreigners are treated with such disdain by Thai authorities. Please come and spend enormous amounts on your holiday, but please leave afterwards. They want our money but they don’t want us. Beggars belief why I still love Thailand and it’s people and want nothing more than to settle there. As a farrang I pay a premium for EVERYTHING when I visit, so I think it’s reasonable to expect access to vaccines (albeit at an inflated cost). BTW the access I want is to buy a dose for my 2 step daughters, not for myself as in the UK I’m being well taken care of.

  13. Avatar

    Phra Pannavuddho

    Monday, May 31, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    I am an English Buddhist monk living in a monastery in Lampang. The nearest Monk’s Hospital in Chiang Mai was recently shut down to make way for its use as a Covid facility. My next appointment at the main Chiang Mai Hospital is not until July. I am almost 75 years old and suffer from acute asthma; this puts me in the high risk category. I have stayed at this temple for 11 years; and have spent a total of 18 years as a foreign monk in Thailand. Nobody can tell me how, when or where I can get vaccinated against Covid. What can I do?

  14. Avatar

    not surprised

    Friday, June 11, 2021 at 10:46 am

    So if the PM is solely responsible for the vaccine rollout and all aspects of what happens, Is he also responsible for the deaths that occur and the cost in human lives lost due to incompetence or negligence shown during this third wave of covid.
    There is not excuse for such deplorable failures on their part.
    An apology just does not cover it.

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for 41 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented over 10,000 radio news bulletins, 3,900 in Thailand alone, hosted 650 daily TV news programs and produced 2,100 videos, TV commercials and documentaries. As founder of The Thaiger, Tim now acts as the Content Manager and head-writer, whilst supervising the growth of the YouTube channel. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and other major stories in Thailand.

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