The news from the UK comes as officials in Bangkok and Washington coordinate to allow 1 million free Pfizer doses to be flown into the kingdom. Thailand’s officials, on Monday, appeared bullish about the country’s current vaccination prospects with booster shots planned for people who were initially inoculated with the Chinese Sinovac vaccine from March until June this year.
Moves are underway between Washington and Bangkok to have 1 million Pfizer vaccination shots delivered to Thailand after it was revealed, last week, during a meeting between opposition politician Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan and US Senator Tammy Duckworth that missing paperwork was holding up the consignment, approved at the end of July by US officials. On Monday, the Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul indicated that the doses could be in Thailand within two weeks. It comes as Thai officials are now confident of ramping up the country’s vaccination effort and achieving targets by the end of 2021 with news from the UK strongly suggesting its vaccination rate of over 66% may be driving herd immunity with infection rates dropping in England in an outcome which has stunned scientists and officials in Whitehall.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul insisted on Monday that there has been no delay on the part of the Thai government in procuring a further 1 million Pfizer vaccines donated by the US government to assist Thailand’s efforts to vaccinate its population.
It comes as the Ministry of Public Health and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), on Monday, produced a more bullish forecast for a campaign to vaccinate 70% of the population by the end of the year in addition to booster shots to support those vaccinated earlier with the Sinovac vaccine and jabs for those who have already contracted and recovered from the disease.
Over 66% of the UK population is now fully vaccinated as UK scientists declare a ‘watershed’ moment
The news comes amid surprising and positive news from the United Kingdom where over 66% of the population is now fully vaccinated.
The data shows hospitalisation rates for England up to last Friday going down for the second week in a row, defying even the best case predictions by UK scientists and SAGE models.
US and UK show a way to end vaccine nightmare says top doctor urging vaccination for ‘herd immunity’
‘Those are two very powerful forces. Each by itself is perfectly capable of making the number of cases or hospitalisations go up or down, and they are basically fighting each other right now,’ revealed Professor Mark Woolhouse to The Guardian newspaper.
Dropping rate of hospitalisation and cases in England being linked to lower infection rate and the ‘the buildup of herd immunity’ according to top scientist
Professor Graham Medley of the SAFE modelling group in government described the news as linked to a reduction in the infection rate from the virus.
‘This is unexpected,’ Professor Medley said. ‘There must be a balance between the increasing immunity from infection and vaccination, and the amount of contact, but how exactly they balance to keep R roughly at 1 is a bit of a mystery.’
He described what is happening as a ‘watershed’ moment for efforts to defeat the virus in the United Kingdom.
‘It’s a watershed moment. This is the first time in the history of the UK’s epidemic that we’ve had a sustained decline in cases in the absence of a lockdown or not far short of it,’ he said. ‘We’ve never seen that before, so clearly something is fundamentally different, and the fundamental difference for me is the buildup of herd immunity.’
Thai doctors, scientists identify ‘herd immunity’ as the goal of the country’s ongoing vaccination drive
This could be welcome news for Thailand where Thai scientists and doctors such as Dr Yong Poovorawan have long-held that the achievement of ‘herd immunity’ despite rising scepticism because of the unique nature of this virus, is possible.
On Monday, Minister Anutin, speaking about the latest batch of Pfizer doses from the US, said that paperwork between the two countries is being finalised to let the shipment go ahead and that it could arrive in Thailand over the coming two weeks
‘Donation vaccines we will receive when the United States is ready. This is the right of the country of origin to donate. I can confirm that if the documents are submitted, we definitely have no delay. For example, in the past, the Japanese government has donated over 400,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Thailand. It takes no more than 2 weeks for the vaccine to arrive in Thailand,’ said Minister Anutin.
Thai ambassador in the US involved in talks to progress the shipment of 1 million Pfizer vaccines already donated by US authorities to the kingdom
It follows reports on Sunday that officials in the United States have invited Thai officials including the Thai ambassador to the US to a meeting this week held under the auspices of the Thai US working group to finalise the shipment.
The Thai ambassador to America, Mr Manasvi Srisodapol, is understood to have made direct contact with influential Thai born US senator from Illinois, Senator Tammy Duckworth concerning the shipment.
Delay exposed after meeting between Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan and US Senator Duckworth
The delay in the shipment came to light last week when the Democratic Party senator, a veteran of the Iraq war and close friend of Thailand in the US Capitol, revealed the delay in shipping the vaccines after a meeting with Thai Sang Thai Party leader, former Pheu Thai prime ministerial candidate and cabinet minister, Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan in Washington DC.
During her meeting and conversation with Khunying Sudarat, Senator Duckworth was reported to have said: ‘All I can tell you is that I’ve been advocating for Thailand to get more vaccines … and Thailand has a million doses waiting to go.’
In the course of their meeting, Ms Duckworth informed the Thai politician: ‘I know I told the ambassador a month ago that it needs to be completed. They said OK, they’re going to work on it.’
Senator Duckworth said she had been informed that the delay was caused by a failure by Thailand to submit the correct paperwork.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported to be preparing paperwork for the Pfizer shipment to Bangkok
It later emerged from both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Public Health that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for preparing protocol paperwork to progress the donation which is understood to have been agreed by US officials in late July.
Arrangements to fly the doses to Thailand are expected to be finalised this week.
At the US Embassy in Bangkok, a spokeswoman, Nicole Fox, explained that there was complex paperwork involved with the shipment as it represented cooperation between the pharmaceutical firm, Pfizer, as well as the governments of the United States and Thailand.
The vaccines require proper legal clearance and regulatory certification before they can be accepted by officials in Bangkok.
Official at the US Embassy in Bangkok explains the difficulties involved as ministry health officials deny being lukewarm about the 1 million dose donation
‘For the coming donation, we are in touch with the company in question regarding the status of their own legal agreements with Thailand and regulatory approval. Next week, we hope to have a bilateral call to work through the legal, logistical, and regulatory items needed to move the doses,’ Ms Fox concluded.
After the issue was initially raised by Khunying Sudarat last week, both the Minister of Public Health Mr Anutin and the Director of the Department of Disease Control came out to deny that Thailand was lukewarm at the prospect of receiving the extra donation of vaccines from the United States.
Beijing’s ire at the beginning of this month over criticism in parliament relating to the Chinese made Sinovac vaccine still used extensively in Thailand
The supply of vaccines has become a touchy point for Thailand’s relationship with China this month with Mr Don Pramudwinai warning earlier in September that derogatory comments by MPs in parliament regarding the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, used extensively at the outset of the country’s vaccination efforts, had damaged Chinese Thai relations.
The vaccine is still being used in Thailand but there are reports of it being phased out after October despite a recent order placed by the government for 12 million doses.
A statement issued by Deputy Prime Minister Don in early September coincided with an extraordinary statement from the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok accusing those who criticised the Chinese vaccine, which some leading Thai doctors have urged the Ministry of Public Health to suspend because of lack of efficacy, of being guilty of ‘wrongdoing’.
Minister of Public Health last week said the paperwork problem was not at the Thai end, Thailand did not fail to respond to US offer of more Pfizer doses
Deputy Prime Minister Anutin, last week, told the media that paperwork had not been received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs concerning the latest shipment of Pfizer doses being shipped free, courtesy of the American government, which the US President has emphasised come also ‘with no strings attached’.
Dr Opas, the Director-general of the Department of Disease Control also refuted any suggestion that Thai authorities are at fault.
‘Since the first donation, the US still has not yet notified the ministries that it will donate any additional vaccine doses,’ he said. ‘Therefore, the report that Thailand has denied or failed to respond to the donation is not true.’
Over 50 million doses already administered in Thailand with booster shots for those inoculated with Sinovac and who already contracted the virus
On Friday, Minster Anutin emphasised that the government plans to administer up to three doses of different vaccines to the population with booster shots for those already inoculated with two doses of the Sinovac vaccine.
He said that over 50 million vaccines had already been administered up to this point covering 44.45% of the population. Figures to the 22nd of September showed that only 22.6% of the population are, as yet, fully vaccinated
‘From now on I would like to invite all brothers and sisters who received 2 doses of Sinovac vaccine from March to June to register or make an appointment to receive the 3rd booster vaccination for safety. And to strengthen your immunity, so that you can have peace of mind that you will definitely be safe from the threat of Covid,’ he said.