Thailand kicks off Covid-19 vaccine programme with China's Sinovac shots

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha holding a sample of the Sinovac vaccine on Feb 24, 2021.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha holding a sample of the Sinovac vaccine on Feb 24, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG, XINHUA) - Thailand started rolling out its Covid-19 inoculation programme with Sinovac's vaccine as the South-east Asian nation tries to revive its pandemic-hit tourism industry.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Sunday (Feb 28) presided over the kickoff of the programme, with a group of healthcare workers receiving the vaccine, state-owned NBT television network showed in a national live broadcast.

Mr Prayut was not vaccinated on Sunday as earlier planned because the Sinovac is not recommended for people of his age, Dr Opas Kankawinpong, director-general of the Disease Control Department, told a briefing on Saturday.

"Today's event is to assure the public about the safety of the vaccine that the government will roll out from now on," said Mr Prayut. "National vaccination is a major step for the government to go through with this Covid-19 pandemic."

South-east Asia's second-biggest economy aims to inoculate 50 per cent of its population by the end of this year as the government tries to reopen its borders, which have been closed for almost a year to curb the outbreak. The government has also approved AstraZeneca's vaccine and has ordered 61 million doses.

Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and four other ministers received the Sinovac shot on Sunday. AstraZeneca's vaccine arrived in Thailand on Feb 24 but the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company still needs to complete the quality-assurance process, it said in a statement on Saturday.

Thailand on Sunday confirmed 70 new cases of coronavirus infection, mostly domestic, according to a report of the Centre for the Covid-19 Situation Administration. Of the cases, 62 were domestic infections while eight others were imported.

The domestic cases included 49 detected in Samut Sakhon and 11 in Pathum Thani, among other provinces, while Bangkok confirmed no new cases on Sunday.

Thailand has reported a cumulative total of 25,951 Covid-19 cases and 83 deaths.