Thailand’s Health Minister Says Country’s ‘Principal’ Shot Will Be The AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine

Thailand will consider as its “principal vaccine” against Covid-19 the coronavirus shot developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford with this Asian country trying to reopen and revive its tourism industry which is a crucial one for the country, said the country’s public health minister in an interview to a television channel.

There were a number of countries – primarily in Europe including the likes of Germany and the Netherlands, that had suspended the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot for usage among people under the age of 60 years because of renewed safety concerns.

The suspension of the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot was initially done in Europe and was followed up by similar measures by other countries in other parts of the world including Thailand. The suspension of the vaccine was done after there were reports of a few incidents of blood clots in some people who had been administered the shot.

However, following a statement by the World Health Organization after it conducted a review of the available data in which the global organization assured that the possible risks of the vaccine were far outweighed by the benefits, the suspension was lifted by a number of countries.  

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been used to inoculate more than 150,000 people in Thailand, and according to Anutin Charnvirakul, the country’s deputy prime minister and public health minister, the percentage of people who actually developed side effects “is considered very low”.

Further deliveries of AstraZeneca’s vaccine are awaited by Thailand, Anutin said and the government expects to receive the next batch of the vaccines by June this year. The minister said that a Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech is also being used for vaccination in Thailand in addition to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Anutin said that nearly 250,000 people in Thailand have received Covid-19 vaccines since the end-February this year.

Relatively lower numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths have been reported by Thailand compared with many countries globally. The country had more than 29,000 confirmed infections and 95 deaths because of the disease as of Sunday, showed official data.

But the pandemic has hit its tourism industry which is the backbone of its economy. According to data from the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council, the economy of the country shrank by 6.1 per cent in 2020 year on year with countries restricting travel to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Anutin said that efforts to restart its tourism industry have been initiated by Thailand, including rolling out vaccines in “significant” numbers in popular tourist destinations such as Phuket and Koh Samui.

“We want to make sure that our people are safe, that is our first priority. So once our people are safe, we believe that our guests, namely tourists or any business people, would definitely come to visit our country,” said the minister. 

Starting this month, the quarantine period for foreigners arriving into the country has been shortened by the Thailand to attract visitors.

(Adapted from CNBC.com)

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