BANGKOK: Thailand is planning to combine the Sinovac and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines in its national inoculation programme to boost public immunity against the coronavirus variants, the Public Health Ministry announced on Monday (Jul 12).
“The National Communicable Disease Committee approved the alternation of vaccines, with Sinovac being the first dose and AstraZeneca the second. They’ll be administered about three to four weeks apart,” said Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
Thai health authorities believe the combination of COVID-19 vaccines in such order will increase public immunity against the coronavirus, particularly the highly-contagious Delta variant, which was first identified in India.
“This is believed to provide better protection against the Delta variant as the immunity will quickly increase to a level that is close to what two doses of AstraZeneca can produce. Moreover, it’d take less time to boost the immunity this way,” said Dr Opas Kankawinpong, director-general of the Disease Control Department.
After getting the first shot of AstraZeneca, he added, it usually takes approximately 12 weeks before the second one can be administered. However, with the vaccine alternation, Dr Opas said the interval can be shortened.
As for those who have already received their first shot of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, they will get their second jab from AstraZeneca three to four weeks later.
“If the first dose is from AstraZeneca, the same is still recommended for the second dose, not the alternation,” Dr Opas said.
READ: Thailand starts tighter coronavirus lockdown around Bangkok
Data from the health ministry showed 12.57 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Thailand since February.
The country is battling its worst wave of infections, with the daily case numbers remaining in the thousands for several weeks. According to the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), most infections were reported in Bangkok and nearby provinces.
On Monday, Thailand reported 8,656 new cases and 4,420 of them were in Bangkok and its vicinity. The high concentration of infections in these provinces has led the government to impose lockdown measures starting from Monday, including a curfew between 9pm and 4am and temporary closure of department stores.
Besides the adjustment in the national vaccination programme, the National Communicable Disease Committee also agreed to give medical personnel and health workers in the frontline a third shot of COVID-19 vaccine to boost their immunity at least three and four weeks after their second jab. The third shot would either come from AstraZeneca or Pfizer.
“Vaccination against COVID-19 will help minimise severe illness and deaths, slow down the transmission and enable hospitals and health service centres to accommodate patients,” said Mr Anutin.
The health minister also expressed concern over the COVID-19 situation in Bangkok and its nearby provinces, citing a gradual increase in the transmission of the disease caused by the Delta variant and its tendency to spread to other parts of Thailand.
“We estimated that we could have close to 10,000 infected patients per day or about 100,000 cases in two weeks,” he added.
According to Mr Anutin, members of the public will have access to antigen test kits in the near future, which will enable them to conduct COVID-19 self-tests at home and reduce the risk of infection.
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