The Ministry of Public Health kicked off the first round of Covid-19 vaccinations for the youngest demographic in the country on Wednesday.
Thailand is the first Asean member to administer vaccines to toddlers after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the move in June. Its Thai counterpart followed suit in August.
So far, 300,000 names of children aged six months to just shy of their fifth birthday have been registered to get the jab.
The first shots of the Pfizer vaccine were administered at Phra Nang Klao Hospital in Nonthaburi province, where eight families took their kids to get inoculated. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul presided over the event.
“Toddlers, who have a high risk of getting infected, haven’t been able to get vaccinated until now. So as soon as the situation changed, we didn’t hesitate to order shots for them based on the government’s policy that everyone, regardless of race or religion, can get vaccinated,” he said.
He said toddlers are three times more vulnerable to catching Covid-19 than other age groups.
He also said the government has gone all-out to provide vaccines for everyone since 2021, with various platforms now available for anyone staying in the country to get jabbed.
Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said the success in vaccinating children aged five to 11 years will help reduce outbreaks in schools, meaning students can resume normal studies rather than having to study alone online.
Vaccinating toddlers will also make their parents feel safer when taking them to kindergarten, he added. He said the ministry was able to save 120 million baht from its budget by switching some orders originally intended for doses to be given to adults.
Mathana Suwanthed, who took her 4-year-old granddaughter to receive a shot of Pfizer on Wednesday, said her family decided she should be vaccinated as she is in such a high-risk demographic. Her father works in a hospital, heightening her risk of exposure.
“She’s already been infected with it once,” Ms Mathana said. “So we thought it safer to get her vaccinated. Now she can go to school and we don’t have to worry. Yes, we have some concerns about possible side-effects, but we see this as the lesser of two evils.”
According to the ministry, at least 82% of Thais are now vaccinated.
A boy is consoled by Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul, left, while getting a Pfizer shot designed for children aged six months to four years, at Phra Nang Klao Hospital in Nonthaburi’s Muang district on Wednesday. At least 300,000 kids have been registered for the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the ministry. It ordered 3 million doses, the first 500,000 of which arrived last week. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)