Opinion: Suspension of AstraZeneca jab should be pricking Prayut’s conscience over vaccine sourcing

It does not come as a surprise that the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has once again taken the country to the brink by not having thought through its plans for the people.

Just minutes before the much-hyped up inoculation of the 2014 coup leader and incumbent premier along with his cabinet was supposed to take place, the news was announced that the planned event will not go ahead.

The reason given was that because a few countries in Europe had put a halt to the vaccination process of AstraZeneca doses as some reports emerged that the vaccine was potentially linked to blood clots among a small percentage of the population.

The fact that the inoculation of Prayut and only a handful of his cabinet was put off made it to the news headlines but not many had thought through the consequences of what just happened.

Here are the facts for everyone to swallow, Thailand has no other option for vaccination. That is the bottom line.

The military-led government had all their hopes set on AstraZeneca as the cure-all vaccine for the nearly 70 million people of the country and to lead it all was a company that has the superpower to produce it for all those in the region – Siam BioScience.

Out of the 200 million doses that is being produced by the company, 60 million were supposed to be for Thais, enough for 30 million people to get the two doses needed for immunity.

The announcement by Ministry of Public Health on Friday that they are halting the planned inoculation of the Cabinet and also for the people was cited as “a mere pause to investigate the issue.”

“If we find out that the problems encountered do not relate to the [AstraZeneca] vaccine, then we will proceed.” Dr Kulkanya Chokephaibulkit, Professor and Director of the Siriraj Institute of Clinical Research said. “Temporary suspension of vaccinations are normal occurrences in the medical field.”

Bigger question

The bigger question that the society needs to ask is why was the vaccination of the entire country put on the back of a single vaccine – AstraZeneca.

Yes, AstraZeneca is the vaccine of the masses and to be fair, the vaccine has been the global go-to-vaccine ever since the various vaccines were announced to have effective against the Covid-19 virus.

AstraZeneca is also by far cheaper than Pfizer and Modena or the newly approved Johnson & Johnson or even the Russian made Sputnik, not to mention the Chinese-made ones from Sinovac or Sinopharm.

But what the Prayut government has done is to put all its eggs in one basket – AstraZeneca. And any body with even a bird’s brain would know that putting all your eggs in one basket is not the smartest thing to do.

The only difference had been when a big fanfare was made of getting 200,000 (actually received just 140,000) doses of Sinovac from China.

The order of 2 million Sinovac vaccines was for China to get the media’s attention and to promote pro-China feeling among Thais.

Leaving the geo-political issues aside, the least that the Prayut government should have done was to look for procurement of other vaccines from other vendors to avoid a fiasco like the one we are witnessing now.

Cue from other countries

Take for example the highly inoculated countries such as Israel or United Arab Emirates. Israel today is one of the highest rates of inoculation and their strategy was to procure each and every vaccine possible and not put their faith in one single manufacturer.

UAE has done the same thing of having vaccines from all across the board. And if those two countries look too far then take the example of Singapore.

Singapore has done exactly the same thing of procuring its vaccines from all possible vendors.

Why? Well to countries such as Singapore and UAE their economy depends on international trade and having their population inoculated was a priority, unlike Thailand where the priorities are very different.

Nearly 15 per cent of the Thai economy is dependent on the tourism sector and another 60 per cent on the export sector, which has been hammered due to the global economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

This government has been failing in every which way and it continues to be supported by those in power, questions need to be raised on why the mistakes of this government keeps being tolerated.

Playing with the lives of the people has been something that this military-dominated government seems to be taking for granted.
That is unacceptable.

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