Health Ministry apologises for not providing enough vaccine, Covax talks in pipeline
A senior health official on Wednesday apologised to the public for failing to provide enough vaccine to combat Thailand’s deepening Covid-19 crisis.
Dr Nakhon Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute, admitted vaccine supplies may be insufficient due to the “unexpected situation” caused by the Delta variant. The country recorded a new daily high of 13,002 infections on Wednesday with 108 fatalities.
Nakhon was speaking alongside Department of Medical Sciences chief Dr Supakit Sirilak at a Public Health Ministry briefing called amid rising public criticism of the government’s vaccine-procurement programme.
Public anger was stirred on Saturday when a leaked letter from AstraZeneca to the Thai government revealed the vaccine manufacturer had promised to supply Thailand with only 5-6 million doses per month. The government had repeatedly claimed AstraZeneca would supply 10 million doses per month for the rest of the year.
Amid a shortage of AstraZeneca doses, the ministry has turned to imports of Sinovac vaccine, but the Chinese-made jabs have performed poorly against the Delta variant.
The letter also revealed that AstraZeneca had advised the Thai government in September last year to join the Covax vaccine-sharing programme. Thailand is one of only a few developing nations that have not joined Covax.
Dr Nakhon revealed that the government was now negotiating to obtain vaccines through Covax.
He added that the institute was also pushing to procure second-generation vaccines as booster shots against Delta variant in the first quarter of next year. Advance booking for the shots would be necessary, he said.
Supakit, meanwhile, said he understood the frustration of people who are still waiting to be vaccinated but insisted that the Health Ministry’s efforts are transparent and verifiable. Addressing controversy over allocation of doses, he explained that the National Vaccine Committee and various other panels were tasked with screening orders for vaccine from various agencies.