Thailand finally kicks off mass Covid-19 vaccination campaign

Bangkok, Jun 7 (EFE).- Thailand on Monday kicked off its mass vaccination campaign for the general population with the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine amid criticism and growing distrust of the government’s handling of the program.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha urged the population to be patient, saying that it was normal that the scarce supply could not quickly meet the high demand for vaccines.

“The vaccines will be delivered gradually throughout June and distributed based on the risk level, the population ratio in each area and possible new clusters,” the Thai leader said at the launch of the campaign.

The authorities have set up several vaccination centers in Bangkok, the epicenter of the current Covid-19 outbreak in the country. Priority will be given to vaccinating older people and those with chronic diseases.

However, other provinces of the country and some hospitals in the capital had earlier announced the delay of the start of the campaign amid uncertainty about receiving sufficient doses.

The strategy of the country, which has fully vaccinated 1.3 million of its 70 million people, relies mainly on the domestic production of 61 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by a local laboratory owned by the Thai king, Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The country is currently one of the Southeast Asian countries that has administered the fewest doses among its population, along with Myanmar, which is immersed in a deep political crisis, and Vietnam, which is experiencing a shortage of supply.

The slow roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines, the first dose of which was administered to politicians and healthcare personnel on Feb. 28, and the administration’s erratic information campaign, have been criticized by the political opposition and some sections of the population.

Meanwhile, vaccination of the inhabitants of the country’s largest resort island, Phuket, has progressed well.

The island hopes to achieve herd immunity by July 1, when the island is scheduled to reopen to foreign tourism.

Starting next month, the Thai authorities plan to lift almost all restrictions on fully vaccinated foreign tourists traveling to the island, where they will have to stay for at least 14 days before moving to any other region.

This pilot plan, which could be extended in the future to the island of Samui, aims to restart the tourism industry, an important driver of the country’s economy before the start of the pandemic, contributing at least 12 percent to the gross domestic product. EFE


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