Opinion: Why waiting for the vaccine is wrong

On Monday, Thai Enquirer published an editorial by a senior doctor which argued that our vaccine acquisition program was adequate despite its unpopularity. (Read more here)

The editorial was clearly looking at things from a public health perspective, which by my own admittance, has been very good in Thailand when compared with the region and the world.

As the editorial argues, the Covid situation in Thailand was and is much better than it is elsewhere thanks to the hard work of both the citizens and the public health sector.

But it is important that when assessing our vaccine response that a more holistic picture must be taken into account.

What has been more devastating than the Covid-19 pandemic in Thailand is the economic repercussions of the country shutting down and the whole world shutting down.

As has been stated before on this website and in newspapers across the country, the tourism sector accounts for a large part of our economy and it has been obliterated by the virus.

Vaccinating our population quickly and efficiently should be a priority for this government not only for the public health benefits but in order to get our hospitality and tourism sector up and running as quickly as possible.

Even if we were to vaccinate everyone tomorrow, the slow speed of vaccinations in the west means that the economy will not return to normal until the end of this year or early 2022. But dragging our feet and waiting for vaccine prices to go down and to monitor potentially minor side-effects means that our population will not be vaccinated until the end of this year. That means that the tourism sector will have undergone two years of a virtual shutdown – something which will lead to even more unemployment and dire economic consequences.

While the Prayut Chan-ocha administration should be praised for its public health response, or by some accounts for stepping aside and letting the doctors dictate policy, it should rightly be criticized for failing to aid our ailing economy.

There is a brain drain when it comes to economics within this cabinet especially with Somkid (who wasn’t great to begin with) and Predee both effectively being booted out in the past two years.

What is left is a cabinet of yes-man without an original thought between them. Our economic recovery plan has amounted to throwing (not enough) money at the problem and hoping that it goes away.

But instead of seeing the vaccine as a panacea to help the economy of the country, internal politics and international geopolitics means that we have effectively placed all our hopes on a Sinovacs Vaccine that has unreliable efficacy data and an AstraZeneca Vaccine that might not be produced locally until mid-year.

The government deserves a lot of praise for navigating us successfully through Covid, all that praise will go out the window unless it steps up its vaccine response.

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