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Thailand Pledges to Speed Covid-19 Jabs for Bangkok Despite Dwindling Supply

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The government said it will accelerate vaccinating people in greater Bangkok and other areas with high coronavirus infection rates after having almost completed immunizing all healthcare workers.

Department of Disease Control Director-General Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong insists the department has ample supplies to administer 10 million doses a month of AstraZeneca and Sinovac to those living in Bangkok and surrounding provinces.

He added that the government is looking at other brands with a strong reputation and has recently placed an order with Pfizer.

Opas also explained that the use of a mix of vaccines may help to boost immunity against emerging strains of the virus. Immunity could be achieved two weeks after taking mixed doses a month apart.

The government hopes cross-vaccination will help it maximize its current resources and will administer 5 million doses of Sinovac and six million doses of AstraZeneca Plc.’s CovidShield vaccine a month.

It seems unlikely, however, that Thailand will receive 6 million doses AstraZeneca’s drug a month as the British-Swedish company said last week that production problems at local manufacturer Siam Bioscience Co. will force it to cut the number of doses given to Thailand as the company still must fill orders from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Thailand has threatened to restrict exports, which would cripple vaccination programs in Indonesia – currently the world’s worst coronavirus hotspot – and other neighbors, seriously damaging Thailand’s foreign relations and confidence among foreign investors.

AstraZeneca, which had to fight off a similar export-ban threat form the European Union early this year, produced evidence that Thailand’s Public Health Ministry only requested 3 million doses a month and made its orders far later than other countries.

Basic supplies for the vaccine come from abroad and, should Thailand block exports, AstraZeneca could simply cut off Thailand’s supply, leaving the country nearly entirely dependent on inferior-quality Chinese vaccines.

This story contains reporting from the National News Bureau of Thailand.