The best of ThailandServing your Thai Business & Holiday Needs. All Singaporeans in Thailand sign in to show your support and bring your Thai "friends" with you for stuff you can't discuss on Facebook! :) ประเทศไทยต้อนรับคุณ!
As authorities want to fully vaccinate as many people as soon as possible in order to slow down the spread of the Delta variant, the change is appropriate, Dr Opas added.
Discussing efficacy, he assured the public that both regimens offered comparable levels of immunity.
The cabinet on Tuesday approved 4.2 billion baht to buy 12 million more doses of Sinovac to support the mix-and-match vaccine policy. Besides, unlike other brands, the Chinese vaccine is readily available and can be shipped promptly, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said at the time.
In addition, the Chulabhorn Royal Academy will import another 6 million shots of Sinopharm, an alternative vaccine not on the government’s free programme.
With ample supply, the ministry will speed up vaccinations on 50% of the population in all provinces, including booster doses for those who have received two Sinovac shots and for children aged 12 and up.
As many as 4.8 million Pfizer doses will be made available to students aged 12-17. Parents will be advised about potential risks, which are rare but are higher for mRNA vaccines than for conventional jabs such as Sinovac, and will have to give consent for their children to be inoculated.
As of Thursday, a total of 38.3 million vaccine doses have been administered: 26.6 million first doses 39.7% of the population), 11.6 million second doses (17.3%) and 611,102 third doses.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered various ministries to speed up preparations for boosting tourism while keeping in mind pandemic restrictions.
The order comes as a medical expert raised concerns over the possibility of the healthcare system having to battle with another outbreak if the government insists on reopening the tourism industry as early as Oct 1.
Gen Prayut on Wednesday assigned the Tourism and Sports, Public Health and Interior ministries to prepare for a rise in both Thai and foreign tourists in the fourth quarter of this year, known as the high tourism season, said Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
Dr Taweesilp was speaking after a meeting of the CCSA chaired by the prime minister.
The ministries were instructed to find areas with the potential to be a part of the government's new tourism reopening programme called "Covid-free Tourist Area Sandbox", similar to the Phuket Sandbox programme, he said.
Dr Taweesilp said ideal candidates for the tourism programme include islands and areas with an airport, which would also have in place Covid-19 prevention and control measures.
The pilot phase of the new tourism promotion programme will begin in October, when five provinces -- Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Phetchaburi and Chon Buri -- are due to reopen for tourism, he said.
Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, meanwhile, cautioned the country is not fully ready to reopen given its low Covid-19 vaccination coverage.
Dr Prasit suggested the government should take into account a lesson learned by Phuket after piloting its Phuket Sandbox programme and the fact that even fully vaccinated people can still catch the coronavirus and spread it. "It will be worrying to lift the Covid-19 quarantine when the country reopens its tourism on Oct 1, while only 38% of the population has received one shot of the Covid-19 vaccine and only 18% of the people have had two shots of the vaccine," he said.
"In fact, it would be better off if we will keep waiting for another month to ensure the country is really ready." Some businesses are also thought to be concerned about the effects on tourism confidence of opening the country too early.
Meanwhile, Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health, said a disease control team has been sent to Phuket to assist local health authorities to contain Covid-19 after the province began recording 200 plus cases of Covid-19 daily.
"The overall effectiveness of Phuket's Covid-19 vaccination is also being assessed to determine whether a booster shot will be needed," Dr Kiattiphum said.
Thailand delays plan to reopen cities to tourists until November
BANGKOK: Thailand has pushed back plans to reopen Bangkok and some other major cities to foreign arrivals until November, due to COVID-19 vaccination rates falling short of targets, a senior official said on Wednesday (Sep 22).
Earlier this month, officials said that they planned to welcome vaccinated tourists without quarantine to major cities like Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Mai in October to revive the country’s crucial tourism sector.
"Cities we've targeted have not reached 70 per cent vaccination rates and so we have to push out the date to November," Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters.
Despite being a production hub for the AstraZeneca vaccine, Thailand's vaccine roll-out has struggled to keep pace, though Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha pledged on Wednesday to speed up inoculations.
One of Thailand’s main Covid-19 vaccine regimes generates a lower immune response than inoculation combinations that include an mRNA-based dose, according to a study by the Siriraj Institute of Clinical Research.
Preliminary results showed that a Sinovac Biotech Ltd vaccine as a first shot followed by an AstraZeneca Plc jab -- a pairing widely used in Thailand -- elicited a weaker immune response than a two-dose regime in which Pfizer Inc’s vaccine was administered as the second shot four weeks after an initial jab of either Sinovac or Astra, the study said.
Thailand was the first nation to start administering the Sinovac-then-Astra combo, with the goal of increasing protection against the more contagious delta variant and addressing vaccine shortages.
In one of the early studies that prompted the government to adopt the two-brand regime, results showed that a first dose of the China-made vaccine followed by an Astra shot three to four weeks later could elicit an immune response eight times stronger than two doses of Sinovac.
The Bangkok-based Siriraj Institute’s research found no severe adverse events following immunisation using any of the regimes. Results from its study of anti-receptor binding domain two weeks after the second dose are as follows:
Astra-Pfizer produces the highest anti-RBD levels on average at 2,259.9 binding antibody units (BAU) per millilitre:
Sinovac-Pfizer 2,181.8 BAU/ml
Sinovac-Astra 1,049.7 BAU/ml
Two doses of Astra 278.5 BAU/ml
Astra-Sinovac 172.1 BAU/ml
Two doses of Sinovac 164.4 BAU/ml
Thailand’s current vaccine pairings are Sinovac-Astra, Astra-Pfizer, and two doses of Astra or Pfizer shots, according to the Health Ministry. People who have received two doses of Sinovac earlier this year are eligible to receive a booster shot using Astra or Pfizer.
“THEY TOOK THE SINOVAC SHOTS, DID THE BLOOD TEST AND SAW LOW ANTIBODY LEVELS, THEN OPTED FOR PFIZER AS THE THIRD DOSE,” SAID DR LEONG.
People who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine have antibodies between 1,300 and 2,000 international units per millilitre, but some of those who received the Sinovac shots have levels of “zero to 40,” he added, and “a few with 200 to 300.”