Nakorn Premsri, the Director of the National Vaccine Institute has warned that Thailand, because of its successful exclusion of the virus, could be in a very dangerous situation if the disease again infiltrates the kingdom. This is why the government has increased its budget to ฿3 billion and will roll out a vaccine programme to inoculate at least 50% of the population with mandatory vaccinations required in any area where an outbreak takes place.
Thailand’s government is getting ready to activate its end game to the Covid 19 emergency which will see the country import its first doses of a vaccine against Covid 19 in the next few months and the rollout of its own vaccine next year which will see up to 50% of the population inoculated.
Over the weekend, Thailand’s Minister of Public Health confirmed that the first doses of a tested and approved vaccine against Covid 19 will arrive in the kingdom before the end of 2020.
The country has been pursuing parallel tracks to secure adequate doses of the vaccine for its population as a key element of its anti-virus strategy even as the kingdom’s borders remain locked and Thailand’s economy slumps with reduced exports and a stalled foreign tourism industry.
University of Oxford to supply the first doses by the end of the year in an agreement signed on Monday
The first tranche of doses is expected to come through an agreement which will be signed, on Monday, between Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute and the University of Oxford whose vaccine programme has successfully come through human trials.
The agreement is being signed as a memorandum of understanding which will lead to Thailand importing doses of the vaccine.
Plan is for 50% of the population to be vaccinated including the elderly and the very young
Thai authorities indicate that the government plans to inoculate up to 50% of the population through a range of Covid 19 vaccines obtained from a variety of sources as well as pursuing the development of its own vaccine which is scheduled to go to human trials in December.
The government plans to make the imported doses available immediately to frontline health workers who may be involved in the treatment of Covid 19 patients followed by the elderly and the young.
Thailand finds itself in a unique and potentially dangerous position because of low infection rates
Outlining the comprehensive strategy being pursued by the government at the end of last week, Nakorn Premsri, the Director of the National Vaccine Institute, put the situation in Thailand, at the moment, in perspective.
The kingdom has successfully managed to close off the population from the threat of the virus through decisive measures supported by the population but at a steep economic cost. It now finds itself in a uniquely dangerous position.
It is quite likely that any second wave of the virus could take off in Thailand and may yet prove to be more deadly.
‘We need to be proactive and look for every way we can to secure the vaccine quickly,’ Mr Nakorn explained. ‘We have a huge risk for an outbreak because we don’t have a large number of cases leaving the population vulnerable if infections start to spread.’
The kingdom has only detected just over 3,600 cases with 59 deaths since the outset of the emergency despite being the first country outside China to record a case.
Worldwide, a drop in the mortality rate associated with the virus sparks debate in medical circles
The threat is unclear with some medical experts, in recent weeks, noting a drop off in mortality rates associated with the virus worldwide as well the percentage of those infected requiring treatment in intensive care.
A debate within the medical community is now being waged to determine whether this is because of a combination of medical factors such as mutations, herd immunity effects within the human population or whether it is due to the disease being increasingly more exposed to younger victims.
There is also an argument that the reduced mortality of the virus is due to increased levels of compliance among the public in terms of mask-wearing and social distancing now being embraced in western countries. The theory is that the viral load associated with the spread of the infection is reduced under such circumstances leading to better clinical outcomes.
It is also becoming clear that, even with increased testing and reduced lethality, this virus has a dangerous mortality rate of 0.6% which is six times that of the normal flu and nearly twice that of earlier widespread pandemics in 1957 and 1968 which cost millions of lives.
Budget of ฿3 billion while Thailand works also with Russia, China and the World Health Organisation
The Thai government is expected to increase its budget to import vaccine doses and produce its own treatment to ฿3 billion.
The kingdom is also working with other countries such as Russia and China as well as the World Health Organisation which is running its own vaccine programme called Covax.
The WHO sees Covax as a global vaccine that will be rolled out to inoculate a minimum of 20% of the world’s population, for free, as a first step to bringing this pandemic under control.
Mandatory vaccinations if there are outbreaks
At present, the Thai government plans to make the vaccine available to the population without charge, on a gradual basis, beginning with those most in need.
However, officials are suggesting that if there is a virus outbreak in any particular area while the vaccine is being distributed, then authorities will make the vaccine mandatory in such areas to suppress the threat of a wider outbreak.
Priority latterly will be Thailand’s own vaccine while foreigners will be required to pay for the jab
It has already been confirmed that foreigners in Thailand will be required to pay for the vaccine at competitive rates charged by the medical sector.
As the vaccine rollout continues, the Thai government plans to prioritise the manufacturing and distribution of its own vaccine having learned its lesson from the 2009 swine flu pandemic when the kingdom was left short and unable to find sufficient quantities.