Thailand targets vaccination of 19 million people in first phase

Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboonsarng
·2-min read
Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha attends an agreement signing ceremony for purchase of AstraZeneca's potential COVID-19 vaccine at Government House in Bangkok

By Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboonsarng

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand is targeting the immunisation of 19 million people against the coronavirus in a first phase of inoculations starting on Feb. 14, the prime minister said on Wednesday, amid criticism the government has been slow in rolling out vaccines.

Inoculations will begin with 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, Prayuth Chan-ocha said. He gave no timeline for the first phase.

By May, Thailand will have received 150,000 doses from AstraZeneca.

In a broadcast carried on the government's website, Prayuth apologised for not solving COVID-19 related problems as fast as the public had demanded.

"Blaming each other will not solve any problems," he said.

Of the 19 million to be vaccinated, 11 million would be people aged over 60 and 6.1 million would be those with underlying diseases, he said.

Another 1.7 million would be for medical professionals and 15,000 government workers involved in managing the virus, he said, adding those under 18 and pregnant women would not be vaccinated. About a fifth of Thailand's population is under 18.

The timeframe would depend on the capacity of hospitals administering the vaccines and number of doses they receive, head of the government's vaccine management committee, Sophon Mekthon, told Reuters.

Thailand has altogether secured 26 million doses from AstraZeneca to be produced by local firm Siam Biosience and 2 million doses from China's Sinovac. It has also reserved 35 million doses from AstraZeneca.

Thailand will initially import the vaccines but is expected by June to be producing it locally, Sophon added.

Authorities say they will vaccinate 31.5 million people.

The education ministry on Wednesday said it would reopen most schools from next week, in response to localised declines in new coronavirus infections.

The announcement comes despite the country reporting on Wednesday its second-highest number of new daily coronavirus cases, with 819 infections, the majority due to mass testing in Samut Sakhon province, the epicentre of the most recent outbreak.

Thailand has reported 15,465 cases and 76 deaths.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and; Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty and Angus MacSwan)