Thailand announced plans on Thursday to inoculate 1 million of its most vulnerable people against Covid-19 by May and start mass vaccinations in June, with the aim of administering 10 million doses a month.
The announcement was the first clear timeline for its plan to vaccinate about half of its 70 million population, and comes amid criticism over the government’s vaccine procurement strategy.
“We are planning two phases — February to May and the second, June to December,” Public Health Vice Minister Sopon Iamsirithaworn told a briefing.
The first four months will be used to administer 2 million doses of the Sinovac Biotech vaccine, which are due to arrive this month, earmarked for frontline medical workers in high-risk areas.
Mr Sopon made no mention of the 50,000 imported AstraZeneca vaccines that Thailand has said it would be receiving.
The second phase, between June and December, authorities plan to administer 10 million doses monthly until December, using 61 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be produced locally from June by Siam Bioscience.
“About 1,000 hospitals are being prepared. Each is able to do 500 doses per day, which over 20 days comes out to 10 million doses per month,” Mr Sopon said, adding that in the early stages only hospitals with resuscitation areas and equipment would be used.
Authorities are planning to vaccinate about 60% of the adult population by the end of 2021, to get closer to “herd immunity”.
Critics have accused the government of being opaque in its vaccine strategy and too slow to secure supplies while relying almost entirely on an agreement with AstraZeneca. The government has defended its approach.
The country has a relatively few infections for its population size compared to most countries, with just 80 fatalities and 24,104 infections so far. About 80% of its cases have been detected in the past two months.