Thailand begins mass Covid-19 vaccine roll-out as tourism reopening looms

People wait to receive a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a gymnasium inside the Siam Paragon shopping center in Bangkok on June 7, 2021.
People wait to receive a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a gymnasium inside the Siam Paragon shopping center in Bangkok on June 7, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand began its mass vaccination drive with a target of inoculating 70 per cent of its residents before the end of this year to prepare the tourism-reliant nation for a wider reopening next year.

The South-east Asian nation plans to administer about 500,000 shots per day starting on Monday (June 7), compared with the daily average of about 100,000 over the past week, according to Health Ministry officials.

The target population in the initial phase of the nationwide roll-out include residents in Bangkok, the epicentre of the current outbreak, and those in Phuket, which is scheduled to test the reopening for vaccinated tourists from July 1, they said.

Thailand is ramping up its pace of vaccine roll-out to contain the country's worst wave of infections that began in April, causing a sixfold jump in cases and a surge in Covid-19 deaths. New clusters of infections have also emerged in its factories in recent weeks, threatening the nation's manufacturing and exports sector, a key economic engine.

Thailand's pace of vaccine roll-out over the past three months was restricted by limited supplies from Sinovac Biotech and AstraZeneca. To date, about 4.2 million doses of shots have been administered, covering about 3 per cent of the population.

The delivery of millions of shots each month from this month will allow the government to expand the inoculation programme, which has an official target of administering 100 million shots, covering 70 per cent of the country's residents, by December.