Embattled Thailand kicks off mass vaccination drive against Covid-19 after long wait

Bangkok has started its mass vaccination campaign against Covid-19, with the government aiming to inoculate six million people in June alone, as a third wave surges and now accounts for 80% of all cases since the pandemic began.

“The government will ensure that everyone is vaccinated,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Monday after a visit to a Bangkok inoculation center as the national vaccination program kicked off. 

Amid a third wave of the virus, which has seen case levels far exceed those of the first and second waves, the state is aiming to administer six million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, which is being made locally, and China’s Sinovac shot in June.  

The government hopes to vaccinate 70% of the country’s 66 million people before the end of the year. To date, only 2.8 million people have received one shot in an initial rollout targeting the most vulnerable, including frontline health and transport workers. 

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The government has been heavily criticized by opposition parties for over-reliance on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is being made by royal-owned Siam Bioscience. Concerns emerged that the company’s production capacity may have been overestimated after the Philippines said its order had been reduced and delayed.

Bangkok has been forced to search elsewhere for more supply, sourcing 200,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from South Korea, and hopes to complete a 20-million-shot deal with Pfizer in the coming weeks.

To date, Thailand has registered 179,886 infections and 1,269 fatalities from the virus, 80% of which has been recorded during the third wave. 2,419 new infections and 33 deaths were recorded on Monday.

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