Opinion: Poor Sinovac results in Brazil raise questions about the Thai government

Data just in from Brazil shows the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine to be far less effective than claimed by Beijing, raising serious questions about the Thai government’s decision to invest heavily in the Sinovac jab, with the first doses due to arrive in February.

According to the Brazil-based Butantan Institute, a late-stage trial showed that the efficacy rate of the vaccine was around 50.4 per cent, much lower than the rates needed to establish and maintain herd immunity in a given population. The silver lining was that the virus was effective in lowering the number of serious cases of Covid-19.

The new verified results from Brazil raises serious questions over the Thai government’s purchasing of 2 million doses of the vaccine and draws into question the government’s relationship with the Chinese government.

Did the Prayut Chan-ocha administration and Anuthin Charnvirakul, the Minister of Public Health, do any research about the vaccine before the purchase agreement was made?

Did they readily accept the results from the Chinese company/government without batting an eyelid?

If the latter is true, then the symbiotic relationship between the military-backed government in Thailand and the Chinese communist party has now taken precedence over the well-being of the Thai people.

According to Prayut and Anuthin, the Sinovacs vaccine was going to be administered to frontline workers – those risking their lives to protect the population from the pandemic. Rather than spending more money to ensure that the vaccine we are giving doctors and nurses is effective, we are giving them a vaccine that is only effective half of the time.

Why? Because the government, specifically those in charge, needs to suck up to their Chinese paymasters to stay in their good graces.

That is why we have Chinese submarines instead of German ones, the reason we have Chinese high speed rail systems instead of Japanese, the reason we turn a blind eye when the people of the Northeast suffer from drought when Chinese dams stop letting out water and now the reason why our frontline workers have a less than effective vaccine.

All of this stems from the government’s insecurity at how they came into power. Prayut and his government needed Beijing’s approval when they came into power because no western government would recognize an administration put in place by a military coup.

As a result, they are indebted to Beijing, indebted to Chinese capital and prestige, even at the expense of their own people.

Let us remember that the PRC is not the benevolent, benign power that it claims to be. One merely has to look at the havoc Beijing has wrought in the domestic economics of Laos and Cambodia to understand that a handshake with Xi Jinping’s government could result in debt-traps and binding contracts that could hamper a country’s economy for decades. Let us not even mention the human rights violations in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibet that Beijing is guilty of.

Thailand has spent the last three centuries balancing the hegemony of great powers for our own advantage. It is the most remarkable foreign policy achievement for an otherwise unremarkable regional player.

Yet, the good work of our predecessors stands to be undone by Prayut and his cronies. Rather than continue to pursue the balance of power, this government has chosen instead to side with a dictatorial regime that grows more aggressive and imperialist by the day. If that is indeed the case, then this vaccine is just the first of many bitter pills that we will have to swallow.

[Lede has been edited for clarity]

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