Delta variant’s danger and new studies raises questions about Thai vaccine program

The spread of new Covid-19 variants have public health officials concerned with the country’s vaccine program with some vaccines reportedly less capable of stopping or containing the virus.

Most concerning is the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, and has become the dominant strains in some countries. Within a span of six months, it has now spread to at least 74 countries worldwide.

Research shows the Delta variant to be much more contagious and deadlier than previous strains of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as a “virus of concern,” with its chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan saying that it was “on its way to becoming the dominant variant globally because of its increased transmissibility,” last Friday. 

Thai public health officials warn that it poses a significant threat in Thailand. (Read more here) They also have concerns but the country’s vaccination program in light of the Delta Variant’s dangers.

Concerns over Sinovac

As of June 19, 2021, around 7.5 million of the Thai population have been vaccinated with either the Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccine. Five and a half million of those have been vaccinated with the first dose of Sinovac, while 2.1 million have been vaccinated with the second dose.

But the application of the Sinovac vaccine is problematic. Emerging data shows that the current vaccines, especially the ones with lower efficacy rates like the Sinovac, are not effective in stopping the transmission of the Delta variant.

Indonesian officials said this week that more than 350 of its frontline healthcare workers and doctors have been infected, with dozens hospitalized, with the Delta variant, despite being vaccinated with the Sinovac.

Last Friday, a major Hong Kong study also found that recipients of the Sinovac jab produced significantly lower levels of antibodies than those who were administered with Pfizer, at a 50.7 per cent efficacy rate in comparison to Pfizer’s 95 per cent mark.

Costa Rica, last week, rejected a delivery of the Sinovac vaccine despite the nation going through a severe Covid-19 outbreak, as health officials warned that it wasn’t effective enough.

AstraZeneca data available

AstraZeneca, Thailand’s other mainstream vaccine, has proven to be much more effective in fighting against the Delta variant and the previous strains.

In a new analysis published by Public Health England last week, it was found that two doses of AstraZeneca were 92 per cent effective “at preventing hospitalisation from the Delta variant.”

The findings in regards to Sinovac and AstraZeneca begs many questions of the Thai vaccination program.

It is strange that while the rest of the world has concerns over the Delta variant and effectiveness of the Sinovac vaccine, Thailand is still forging ahead with Sinovac.

The country is due to bring in 19.5 million Sinovac doses by the end of the year. Anutin Charnvirakul, the Minister of Public Health, told reporters that he would import 28 million doses of the vaccine in 2022.

The cost at which Thailand is buying the Sinovac jab is much higher than the cost of locally produced AZ vaccines and around the same as more proven vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna. Why, then, does the government insist on going ahead with a low quality product?

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