Thai officials treat it as a given that 70, 80 or even 100 percent of Thais will be vaccinated against Covid-19. In their minds, vaccine hesitancy doesn’t exist and they seem to believe everyone want a jab.

Thai teenagers showed the old men running the kingdom this week that they’re delusional.

While Thailand has not experienced the same type of vaccine hesitancy seen in the United States and other western countries – one driven by selfishness, ignorance and politics – it does exist in Thailand, and is increasing among secondary school- and university-aged youths.

Within days of the launch of Thailand’s campaign to vaccinate children ages 12-17 with the mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, a wave of online discussions expressing hesitancy towards the vaccine formed.

In the U.S., youths aren’t getting vaccinated because they don’t believe Covid-19 is a threat because they are not among the most affected age groups. That’s not been the case for Thai youths.

Thailand estimates 5 million teenagers qualify for the Pfizer shots and 3.6 million of them – or their parents – have signed up for jabs. But among the 28 percent that haven’t registered – as well as a portion of those whose parents registered for their children’s inoculations – there is real reluctance to get vaxed.

In online posts containing the hashtag #ไฟเซอร์นักเรียน (“Pfizer for students”), concerns were raised about the side effects of vaccines and fear that Pfizer will be mischievously replaced by shots of CoronaVac, made by China’s Sinovac Biotech. Both reasons have reflect the significant mistrust young Thais have in the current military-backed government.

That distrust is not unfounded: For months, the government on ex-generals with no experience in managing a health crisis have showed how unprepared they are to manage both the pandemic and the vaccination campaign.

Just before receiving their second jab, some Thais found out that the other half of their shots regimen would be a different vaccine due to sudden changes in the government policy.

In some cases, people had to choose between delaying their second shot or mix-and-matching vaccines, as some hospitals ran out of stock. Now foreign countries like the United Kingdom are refusing to accept mix-and-match regimens, categorizing those who got both Sinovac and AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine as “unvaccinated”.

In response to the issue, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that the problem was that “vaccination centers operated too fast and did not go according to the amount of vaccine they had.” Many have found this statement irresponsible.

Having witnessed the vaccination crisis in the country, students are afraid their second shot also will be substituted with another vaccine than Pfizer. More worryingly, some wrote online that they fear their second dose will have a Pfizer logo on the vial, but another substance inside.

Although that is unlikely, such fears show that younger Thais do not trust the government to the point that they could imagine the regime deceiving them in this way.

The new wave of vaccine hesitancy among the younger generation comes after a smaller resistance from the general public. Unlike Americans, Thais are not crowing about “personal freedom” and the “choice” to put their own misguided beliefs ahead of the good of their own family members, friends and coworkers. Thais’ hesitancy comes from the poor choices the government made at the start of the vaccination campaign.

A recent YouGov poll showed that the number of Thais willing to get vaccinated dropped from 83 percent in January to 72 percent in July. This trend was the reverse of that observed in other Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam.

It’s clear Thailand’s rulers are now paying the price for their earlier inefficiencies and lack of decisiveness.

The main reason cited was the government’s slow and disorganized vaccination program, as well as the country’s heavy reliance on Chinese-made Sinovac doses. Believing that mRNA vaccines are more effective, many Thais have been calling for Pfizer and Moderna to be offered as alternatives.

Apart from questions about the Chinese-made vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, the government’s heavy reliance on Sinovac has been portrayed by many as reflecting its “increasing tilt towards China.”

Given that the topic of vaccines is inextricably connected to politics, the demand for the government to replace Sinovac with mRNA vaccines has also been registered by pro-democracy protestors since July.

Once thing Thai anti-vaxers have in common with their counterparts in the west is misinformation and the spread of conspiracy theories online. However, Thai hesitancy has been worsened by the high level of public distrust following months of chaos in the vaccine program.

It’s clear Thailand’s rulers are now paying the price for its earlier inefficiencies and lack of decisiveness.

As of early Oct. 15, 47 percent of Thais have not received even a single coronavirus vaccine dose and only 35 percent are fully vaccinated.

The number of vaccines procured so far is only sufficient for half of the population, assuming every individual needs two doses. Furthermore, as the country has been relying mainly on the Sinovac and AstraZeneca shots, mRNA vaccines are considered rare items.

Thus, students’ hesitancy towards Pfizer – widely perceived as the “best” vaccine – sparked anger among those who wanted to get Pfizer shots but previously received other vaccines, not to mention those who have struggled to get vaccinated at all.

The government has lost the trust of its people. The quicker it put the vaccination program back on track, the faster Thailand will return to normality, rebuild its economy and earn people’s trust again.