BANGKOK — Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the government’s plan to fully vaccinate all target population groups will definitely be achieved by the end of this year.
Anutin also said the government will now turn its priority to providing booster shots, even as a majority of the Thai population has yet to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. To close up that gap, Thailand is now resorting to “borrowing” vaccines from other countries, such as Singapore and Bhutan.
The first booster shots for the general public will be given out on Sept. 24, starting with those who received 2 Sinovac shots earlier this year, Anutin said. Their third shots will be provided by AstraZeneca.
The government will also buy an additional 100 million vaccine doses, which will serve as boosters for all target groups in the first six months of 2022. Anutin says that from next year, there will be a more diverse choice of vaccines and the price is also expected to come down.
Although Thailand is still reporting a high number of daily new infections — more than 10,000 cases were confirmed on Wednesday and 114 deaths reported — Anutin said he’s confident that the larger vaccination coverage by the year’s end will make the pandemic much more manageable.
Nevertheless, the health ministry will continue to buy medication and equipment required for COVID-19 treatment, in order to tend to the current number of coronavirus patients, he said.
As of Wednesday, 24 percent of the Thai population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while little more than 44 percent has received at least one dose.
The government on Thursday said Singapore will send 122,400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Thailand on Saturday, as part of a deal that will see Thailand return the favour when vaccines are more available.
The news was announced by Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat.
A similar deal was previously reached with Bhutan, who will “lend” Thailand 150,000 of its AstraZeneca doses.
Along with the shipment of AstraZeneca shots, Singapore is also sending 200,000 antigen test kits and 500,000 nasopharyngeal swabs to Thailand. The kits are expected to arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport on the same day as the vaccines.