AstraZeneca Covid vaccine will be Thailand’s ‘principal’ shot: Health minister

A health worker holds a box of the AstraZeneneca vaccine at the Bamrasnaradura Institute for Infectious Diseases in Nonthaburi Province on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Chaiwat subprasome | SOPA pictures | LightRocket via Getty Images

The coronavirus shot developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University will be Thailand’s “main vaccine” as the country seeks to revitalize its crucial tourism sector, the Thai health minister told CNBC on Monday.

Renewed safety concerns over the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot led countries such as Germany and the Netherlands to stop using the vaccine for those under the age of 60.

Before these final steps, several countries – including Thailand – suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after blood clots were reported in some people who received the shot. However, many lifted their suspension after the World Health Organization announced that a review of the available data found that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks.

In Thailand, more than 150,000 people have been vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and the percentage of people who experienced side effects is considered “very low,” said Anutin Charnvirakul, the country’s deputy prime minister and health minister.

Anutin told CNBC’s Street Signs Asia that Thailand is waiting for further deliveries of the vaccine from AstraZeneca, which are expected to take place in June. In addition to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Thailand is also using one developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, the minister said.

Almost 250,000 people have received Covid vaccines in Thailand since late February, Anutin said.

Attracting foreign visitors

Compared to many countries around the world, Thailand has reported relatively few Covid cases and deaths. Official data showed the country had confirmed more than 29,000 infections and 95 deaths as of Sunday.

However, the tourism-dependent economy was hit hard, shrinking 6.1% year over year in 2020 as countries restricted travel to avoid the spread of Covid-19, according to the Office of the National Council for Economic and Social Development to slow down.

Thailand is stepping up efforts to restart its tourism industry, including introducing vaccines in “significant” numbers in popular destinations like Phuket and Koh Samui, Anutin said.

“We want to make sure that our people are safe, that is our top priority. Once our people are safe, we believe that our guests, namely tourists or business people, would definitely come to visit our country,” he said Minister.

To attract visitors, Thailand has cut the quarantine period for foreigners entering the country from this month. The country is also striving to waive quarantine requirements for vaccinated foreign visitors to its largest holiday island, Phuket.

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