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Thailand Hits 16,355 New Covid-19 Cases as Health Ministry Debunks Rumor VIPs Get Pfizer 1st

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Thailand’s coronavirus third wave continued to smash through records, with 16,533 new cases reported on Wednesday along with 133 deaths.

The grim record came as provinces around the country reported new records as well. In Chonburi, 864 new cases and four deaths were reported. Banglamung District, which includes Pattaya, accounted for 212 of those cases.

Thailand’s only way of its self-inflicted disaster is to procure the vaccines the government failed to procure last year and use them to vaccinate as many people as possible. That process continues to slog along, with the numbers of people vaccinated on weekends and this week’s many holidays dropping to under 100,000 when – in theory – they should surge, as people aren’t working.

The Public Health Ministry said Tuesday that 500,000 doses of vaccines from Pfizer Inc. – part of 1.54 million doses donated by the United States –will be reserved for healthcare workers, while denying rumors some doses are earmarked for Thailand’s rich, politicians, police and celebrities.

Online scuttlebutt had said the quota of donated Pfizer-BioNTech jabs for healthcare workers had been cut from 500,000 to 20,000 doses, an allegation ministry spokesman Dr. Rungruang Kitpati called “fake news”.

Healthcare workers in Thailand are mostly inoculated with two doses of the vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech. However, concerns regarding efficacy against the now dominant delta variant have prompted health authorities to launch a booster shot program for healthcare workers.

In this program, healthcare workers can choose between AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech as their third booster dose. Those who choose AstraZeneca can get their booster shot right away, while those choosing Pfizer will need to wait for its delivery.

The 1.54 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine donated by the Biden administration are expected to arrive in Thailand Thursday. The first administration of this mRNA vaccine is expected in early August.

Another 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine ordered by the Department of Disease Control are then expected to arrive in batches from October to December.

Rungruang stressed that all these 21.54 million doses of Pfizer vaccine will be provided through the government’s national inoculation campaign free of charge to eligible persons, mainly the vulnerable groups and residents of high-risk areas.

He said any offer of Pfizer jabs in Thailand at a charge are fraudulent, and the Ministry of Public Health will be taking legal action against those involved.

Meanwhile, the Thai Red Cross Society has announced a list of 38 provincial administrative organizations to receive a Moderna vaccine allotment from the society, with deliveries expected in the fourth quarter.

The National News Bureau of Thailand contributed to this report.