The Chinese Government, through its embassy in Bangkok, pressured Thai government officials at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic to not criticize the Sinovac vaccine multiple sources have confirmed to the Thai Enquirer.
The Sinovac vaccine, which was developed by a Chinese company, has been shown to reduce fatalities in large sample sizes but is also less effective than many western-made/licensed vaccines in preventing infections.
As a result, the Thai government’s insistence on relying only on Sinovac vaccines and locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccines in the initial phases of the pandemic was met with criticism from the public.
At the height of the criticisms in April and May of this year, opposition parties grilled the cabinet and the ruling party over the decision to acquire Sinovac initially and for further orders for the drug once it was proven to be less effective against the Delta variant of Covid-19.
Both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Public Health defended the use of the vaccine at the time, pointing to studies which shows that it significantly reduces the mortality rate.
But now, according to several sources inside the Ministry of Public Health and in the Thai diplomatic circles, the government may have been pressured by the Chinese embassy in Bangkok.
“Chinese government officials met with senior ministers at the health ministry to stress to them that negative press over the Sinovac vaccine could jeopardize the relationship between the two countries,” said a senior public health official who asked to not be named.
“They basically said it was imperative that Thai government officials, at the very least, not criticize the vaccines in public,” the source told Thai Enquirer.
A separate source inside the foreign ministry in Thailand told Thai Enquirer that the Chinese diplomats also met with Thai officials in the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the cabinet.
“They wanted to talk about Sinovac but I did not attend those meetings,” the source told Thai Enquirer.
A third source, also at the health ministry, said that there had been orders issued from the “very top” that no doctors or health professionals should comment on the efficacy or use of Sinovac.
“They are very sensitive after the meeting with the Chinese about statements about the vaccines,” the source said.
“I mean, even on its own the merits for Sinovac are there. It was the only vaccine available to be delivered in large quantities and is shown to prevent death,” the source said. “But the fact that the Chinese officials had this much influence on our elected representatives is troubling.”
Calls to the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok were not answered.