Thailand receives first batch of coronavirus vaccines

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul applaud next to a container as they attend the arrival of a plane with a shipment of 200,000 doses of the Sinovac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine from China at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand.

Thailand received on Wednesday its first 200,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac, the country’s first batch of coronavirus vaccines, with inoculations set to begin in a few days.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is expected to be among the first to receive the vaccine this weekend. Most doses have been reserved for frontline medical workers.

“Thank you to the People’s Republic of China for delivering the vaccine this month and subsequent months,” Prayuth said on the tarmac at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, where a refrigerated container bearing the flags of the two countries was lowered from a Thai Airways plane.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul earlier this week said 117,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine would also arrive on Wednesday and that Prayuth would be among the first recipients.

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Thailand is expecting to take delivery of a further 1.8 doses of CoronaVac in March and April, to be given mainly to health workers and at-risk groups.

The country has so far been spared of the kind of epidemic seen elsewhere, with just over 25,000 infections overall.

The vaccine’s arrival comes amid some public criticism of the government and accusations it has been too slow to secure the vaccines.

Its mass immunization campaign, which aims to administer 10 million doses a month, is slated to begin in June, using 26 million shots of AstraZeneca vaccines produced by local firm Siam Bioscience. It has also reserved a further 35 million doses of the vaccine.

The government has said it plans to vaccinate more than half the adult population this year.

“We will procure more as we produce them so there is enough to create herd immunity in our country,” Prayuth said.

He said the Chinese vaccine would need a few days to be prepared for inoculations.

“As for who will take it first is another story,” he said.

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