Ex-Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, speaking on Clubhouse, urged the government to work with business leaders and offered to reach out to international leaders himself on Monday to obtain more vaccine supplies for the kingdom. It came as Thailand recorded its highest daily rate of infection on Friday and already has over twenty thousand people hospitalised with only enough vaccine doses in the country to fully vaccinate 1.5% of the population, at this time. Nonetheless, the Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul insists that this wave, which is still rising and has dwarfed total infections up to the beginning of this month since the pandemic began over a year ago, will still be brought under control within two weeks.
The Thai Prime Minister has announced Russia is to supply 10 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine just after the US firm Pfizer BioNtech also confirmed this week that it will sell a similar number of doses to Thailand. The announcement comes just two days after the Prime Minister appeared nettled by reporter’s questions following a Clubhouse appearance on Monday by ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra who offered to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin himself and who also urged the PM to involve the country’s top business people in efforts to secure more vaccines in what is now a critical race against time with the kingdom in the grips of a massive virus wave which has dwarfed infection levels seen to date.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha has announced that Russia has agreed to supply 10 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine which has become widely acclaimed and was recently accepted to have a 91% effectiveness rate by a peer-review study published in the UK medical journal, The Lancet.
The news was announced by General Prayut on Thursday.
He had earlier revealed he had instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make contact with Russian authorities to obtain supplies of the jab.
Personal intervention by the Russian President based on strong ties between the two countries
The PM told the press that this led to a personal intervention by Russian President Vladimir Putin who ordered Russian officials to give priority to the request in the hopes that it would help strengthen already friendly ties between Russia and the kingdom.
The government leader said the Ministry of Public Health will be in contact with Russian agencies to work out the details of the order.
The supply of 10 million doses will be a ‘government to government’ contract.
PM questioned over ex-premier Thaksin’s Clubhouse appearance questioning the vaccination plan
On Wednesday, the day before the latest announcement to the press, the Prime Minister, however, appeared irritated when he was questioned over an appearance on the exclusive audio social networking app ‘Clubhouse’, by ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Mr Thaksin criticised the tardy rollout of Thailand’s vaccination campaign and like other opposition figures such as Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit over the previous few months, suggested the kingdom should have a wider spread of vaccine suppliers.
Similar advice had been proffered by top medics such as top virologists Dr Yong Poovorawan.
Thaksin: deploy business leaders to source vaccines
On Monday, speaking to his ‘Clubhouse’ audience, the ex-PM who was in power from 2001 to 2006 before being ousted by a military coup, even offered his services to negotiate supplies for the kingdom and specifically referenced Russian President Mr Putin, a personal friend, saying he would, if asked, make contact with the foreign leader himself.
Mr Thaksin said the government should also deploy the country’s top business people and use their connections to ramp up inward supply into the kingdom.
It comes as Thailand, on Friday, experienced its worst day so far since the pandemic began with over 2,000 infections recorded in a single 24 hour period.
The death rate is also ticking up with 7 mortalities reported on Thursday and 4 on Friday.
Obese 29 year old woman dies after becoming infected on April 10th as consistently severe symptoms emerge
Most of those who died are elderly and with severe underlying conditions although, on Friday, an obese 29-year-old woman was reported as having passed away after she is believed to have contracted the disease on April 10th.
All deceased patients are reported to have experienced acute shortness of breath and excess phlegm in their system accompanied by a severe lung infection.
Scale of the third wave dwarfs everything to date
The scale of this third wave can be seen by data which shows that up until April, there had been 21,320 confirmed infections while as of now, there are already 50,183 infections with a rising death rate.
Nonetheless, the Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul told the press, on Friday, not to be alarmed by the rise in infections pointing out that they are in line with predictive models.
Last week, a predictive model drawn up by Mr Anutin’s ministry in association with the Department of Disease Control, suggested that figures could rise as high as twenty-eight thousand in one day but were more likely to reach nine or ten thousand before being brought under control.
Public Health Minister Anutin still sticking to a two-week time frame to defeat and control this virus wave
The minister, on Friday, suggested a two-week time frame for this and specifically said that the cluster linked with Bangkok pubs would be reined in by the end of April.
There are currently over twenty thousand people hospitalised from the disease with pressure mounting on beds even with the public health system augmented by military field hospitals.
The minister, on Friday, indicated that the infections are centred on urban areas but explained to the press that the extent of the outbreak was not being concealed from the public.
Only enough vaccines for 1.5% of the population now landed in Thailand as officials source more doses
There are currently only 2.12 million vaccines already delivered to Thailand which would be enough to fully vaccinate only 1.5% of the population.
These are being distributed to areas of highest risk and medical personnel dealing with the outbreak.
Mr Anutin also confirmed the news, announced in the last few days, that American firm Pfizer BioNtech will be supplying 10 million doses to Thailand.
On Wednesday, the PM indicated that 35 million more doses in addition to 65 million already ordered will be delivered which would be enough, he said, to achieve effective herd immunity.
Timescale on delivery of the vaccine doses is not clear and suggests a delay beyond the end of 2021
However, timelines on the delivery of these vaccine doses are not clear and have become the subject of spats between government ministers such as Mr Anutin and the opposition who claim extended delivery dates well beyond the end of this year.
The major supplier to Thailand is still the UK Swedish firm, AstraZeneca.
The delivery of large quantities of doses from the Siam Bioscience plant in Pathum Thani from June is, according to the government’s plan, meant to signal greater intensity in the country’s vaccination drive.
The latest news is that 6 million doses will be supplied in June from AstraZeneca followed by 10 million doses over the next five months with five million doses in December.
Officials had earlier indicated that the Thai plant could produce up to 10 million doses per month.
Only three vaccines approved by the Thai Food and Drug Administration at this point, two in use
At present, only three vaccines are approved for use in Thailand including the Chinese Sinovac product, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
The latter was paused in the United States over health fears but is expected to be greenlighted again in the coming days albeit following a withering report from US inspectors with the Food and Drug Administration over the firm’s production facilities which were found to be sub-par and unsanitary.
However, the numbers seem to suggest that without large numbers of additional vaccines and more vaccine supplies on the ground, Thailand may still not have administered the large number of doses needed to achieve full herd immunity by the end of the year unless the current situation is turned around.
Business leaders come forward to help as concern over the speed of the vaccine campaign mounts
Concern of a potential lag in rolling out the vaccination campaign has drawn suggestions from business groups and business leaders who have offered to assist with the drive in the same way as the private sector was involved in the highly successful UK campaign.
On Friday, the Minister of Public Health Mr Anutin indicated that the government will be working quickly to approve the new vaccines from the United States and Russia.
At the same time, Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, next Wednesday will be meeting the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Bankers’ Association to discuss the response to this third wave of the virus, the largest so far.
The focus of the meeting will be on how the government can secure more vaccines in the shortest possible time frame.
PM nettled by questions on Thaksin
On Wednesday, General Prayut was nettled and refused to answer persistent reporter’s questions about Mr Thaksin’s social media advice and prescription for the current emergency.
‘I don’t know him. Just leave him be,’ he said. ‘I won’t answer that. Don’t relay a question from someone who is not even in the country.’