Update: Labor minister Suchart Chomklin on Saturday backed down the deferral and said the vaccination drive for private employees will resume on Monday. However, nine vaccination centers will remain closed until further notice.
BANGKOK — The mass vaccination program for registered workers under the social security system was put on hold until the end of this month in just four days after the launch, officials said Friday.
All of the 45 vaccination centers for insured workers across Bangkok will be “closed for renovation” from Saturday until June 28, the Social Security Office announced Friday. Labor minister Suchart Chomklin said the purpose of the closure is to improve service quality and has nothing to do with the supply of vaccines as alleged by social media.
“I confirm that we have no problem with the supply of vaccines,” Suchart said. “We want to find out the exact number of workers because we found that the number of people who showed up at vaccination centers didn’t match with the number of the people who registered.”
He continued, “We ask the human resources department of each company to revise the number of their employees who wish to get vaccinated with the Social Security Office to ensure smooth operation once the service resumes.”
Labor ministry spokeswoman Theanrat Nawamawat also blamed the conditions at certain vaccination centers as a reason for the sudden pause.
“Some people suffered high blood pressure because there is no air conditioning at some vaccination centers,” Theanrat said. “Downpours and strong wind also disrupted the service.”
But in the SMS messages received by some of the registered workers, the Social Security Office stated that their queue was postponed due to a logistical problem.
“To ensure readiness of vaccination centers and continuity of vaccine distribution, the labor ministry would like to cease the vaccination service for renovation until June 28,” part of the message seen by Khaosod English said.
The Social Security Office’s vaccine rollout is open to more than nine million employees, including migrant workers and foreign professionals, under the social security system.
Over 174,000 out of one million doses allocated to the labor ministry were administered since Monday, which was also the first day of the country’s long awaited mass vaccination program operated by the health ministry.
Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul declined to comment on the matter. He said the vaccines have already been distributed to the labor ministry as requested.
“I haven’t been briefed about it,” Anutin said. “This has nothing to do with me because the health ministry has already allocated the vaccines as instructed by the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration. It’s the responsibility of that agency to manage the administration of vaccines.”
As of Friday, a total of 1,448,964 doses were administered nationwide since the beginning of the mass vaccination program on Monday. Despite the leap in the number of inoculations, there were reports of vaccine shortage at some hospitals over the past few days.
The Golden Jubilee Medical Center in Nakhon Pathom province announced Wednesday they could only administer the shots to those registered for Monday and Tuesday only. Those who got their queue for a later date would have to wait until further notice.
Likewise, the Banpong Hospital in Ratchaburi province also advised people who registered for vaccination for June 9 and onwards to check for new appointments on the hospital’s website.
Thailand is relying heavily on 61 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines that are being produced domestically by Siam Bioscience, a company wholly owned by the Crown Property Bureau, to achieve its target of acquiring 100 million doses by the end of this year. So far, only 1.8 million doses have been delivered.
The government is also looking to diversify its vaccine sources by procuring millions of doses from Sinovac, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson.