The Public Health Ministry plans to inoculate children aged 3-11 years against Covid-19 next year, if a vaccine is approved for that age group.
Department of Disease Control director-general Opas Karnkawinpong said on Monday there were about 6 million children in that group. They would be incolulated next year if the World Health Organisation and the Thai Food and Drug Administration endorse a vaccine for them.
The new target was set as a nationwide campaign got underway on Monday to jab students aged 12-17 years with the Pfizer vaccine.
The drive is focused first on provinces declared dark red zones, including Bangkok, and includes vocational schools.
Dr Opas said teenage female students would receive two doses, the second at least four weeks after the first. The second dose for male students remained uncertain. Health officials would need to evaluate their need after the first dose.
The uncertainty for the boys was due to reports that mRNA vaccines caused more side effects in young males than in girls, he said. The side effects would go away over a period of time, however.
Dr Opas said the vaccine was safe for the 12-17 age group.
“The vaccine is safe for students. Its use is approved by the FDA and the World Health Organisation,” he said.
Education Minister Treenuch Thienthong told Radio Thailand that schools would be allowed to reopen classrooms if students and teachers were vaccinated when the second semester starts on Nov 1.
Dr Opas said students in schools not administered by the Education Ministry, homeschoolers and foreign students would be vaccinated for free, but they had to contact the education office in their area.
Achools not under the Education Ministry included religious schools and schools operated by border patrol police.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha kicked off the vaccination drive at Pibool Uppatham School in Huai Khwang district of Bangkok.
The country had sufficient vaccine for all groups and was moving towards more reoening, he added.