Thailand backs Covid-19 vaccine plan amid unease over Sinovac-AstraZeneca mix

A growing number of countries are looking at mix-and-match approaches to better protect from highly transmissible Covid-19 variants. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - A virologist and adviser to Thailand's government on Tuesday (July 13) endorsed a plan to mix doses of the coronavirus vaccines of AstraZeneca and Sinovac, amid some public unease about use of the largely untested strategy.

There has been no research released specifically about mixing the two types, but a growing number of countries are looking at mix-and-match approaches to better protection against highly transmissible variants.

At a health ministry news conference, Dr Yong Poovorawan, a virology expert at Chulalongkorn University, said 1,200 people in Thailand had already received the Sinovac-AstraZeneca combination - in different orders - mainly due to allergic reactions to their first doses, requiring them to change vaccine.

"There were no severe side effects, which indicates that it is safe for real usage," Dr Yong said.

He said a preliminary result from his study on 40 subjects showed that a shot of the inactivated vaccine of China's Sinovac followed by one of the viral vector vaccine of AstraZeneca resulted in a similar buildup of antibodies to recipients of two doses of the AstraZeneca shot.

Thailand announced on Monday that combination would be adopted.

But some critics called the move risky.

"Thai people are not test subjects," said Dr Rewat Wisutwet, who is also a lawmaker, from the Seri Ruam Thai Party.

In Nonthaburi, a province bordering Bangkok, an offer on Facebook by health authorities for 20,000 people to receive the Sinovac-AstraZeneca mix drew close to 700 mostly critical comments.

"I am not a lab mouse," said one post, while another said: "This is like playing with peoples' lives."

Another wrote: "If the first dose is Sinovac, then please cancel it."

Sinovac did not respond to a requests for comment on the Thai plan on Monday and AstraZeneca said vaccine policy was for each country to decide.

Thailand is suffering its worst coronavirus outbreak yet and authorities on Tuesday approved use of home rapid antigen self-test kits, as its capital's healthcare and testing facilities come under strain.

It has also given the go-ahead for home or community isolation for asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases.

Thailand recorded 8,685 infections and 56 deaths on Tuesday, among the 353,712 cases and 2,847 fatalities overall, most of those recorded in the past three months.

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