October 20, 2021
Thailand to Cease Using Sinovac Vaccines After Supplies Are Exhausted
The announcement follows queries about the efficacy of the Chinese vaccine, the world’s most widely used COVID-19 jab.
By Sebastian Strangio October 20, 2021
Thailand has announced that it will stop using the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine when its current stocks run out, having used the shot for several months in combination with Western-developed vaccines.
The Chinese-made vaccine has been the key to Thailand’s nationwide vaccination campaign so far, with the country having administered more than 31.5 million Sinovac doses, just under half of its 64.4 million total. In February, the country began administering Sinovac shots to frontline workers, high-risk groups, and residents of the island of Phuket, which was opened in July to international tourists in a special pilot program.
“We expect to have distributed all Sinovac doses this week,” said health official Opas Karnkawinpong, according to Reuters. Opas added that the program will switch to combining the AstraZeneca vaccine, which Thailand is producing locally, with the mRNA vaccines being made by Pfizer and BioNTech.
The announcement comes amid questions about the efficacy of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine, the world’s most widely used COVID-19 vaccine. In July, Thailand became the first nation in the world to begin mixing COVID-19 vaccines, offering people who had received two jabs of Sinovac an additional booster shot of AstraZeneca. This followed the revelation that hundreds of medical workers caught the coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated with Sinovac.
Last month, Thailand’s Siriraj Institute of Clinical Research found that Thailand’s main vaccine regime – a Sinovac shot followed by an AstraZeneca vaccine – generated a lower immune response than a two-dose regime of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine. Thailand’s heavy reliance on Sinovac has also elicited public pushback, with many members of the public harboring prejudices, well founded and otherwise, against the Chinese vaccine. (While Sinovac’s efficacy is lower than other available vaccines, research shows that it still offers robust protection against serious illness and death.)
New vaccine combo injects hope for Thailand’s battle against COVID-19
- October 11, 2021
If you are hesitant about getting a Sinovac jab to protect yourself against COVID-19, here’s some good news – the government is preparing to offer new free alternatives.
The Public Health Ministry said last week that it was seeking official approval for the AstraZeneca-Pfizer vaccine cocktail for people under the government’s free vaccination rollout.
The Thai government is currently offering three brands of COVID-19 vaccine – Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Pfizer. Early this year, most vaccinees were given two doses of Sinovac, though since then millions have received two doses of AstraZeneca. But faced with limited supply of AstraZeneca vaccine and growing complaints about Sinovac’s low efficacy, the government began rolling out the Sinovac-AstraZeneca cocktail in July. However, concern over the safety of this new combination has prompted many people to stay away from COVID-19 jabs altogether.
“I won’t take Sinovac no matter what,” said 43-year-old Duean, a live-in carer for an elderly woman.
Concerns about Sinovac
Even though more than 21 million doses of Sinovac have been administered in Thailand with very few adverse effects reported, many people still have reservations about this inactivated vaccine.
Their first concern is that it took a long while for the World Health Organization (WHO) to clear Sinovac for emergency use earlier this year. Sinopharm – another inactivated vaccine made by China and now available in Thailand as a paid alternative – won approval far more quickly.
Their second concern is that many healthcare workers vaccinated with Sinovac during the second wave of COVID-19 in Thailand then contracted the disease despite being double-jabbed. Some of those infected also died.
Thirdly, they believe the more readily available Sinovac is inferior to AstraZeneca, as the latter is recognized by more countries.
Upcoming mix and match
After drawing much criticism for the Sinovac-AstraZeneca cocktail, Thai authorities are now preparing to offer the AstraZeneca-Pfizer combination, confident that about 10 million doses of Pfizer will be delivered each month in the last quarter of the year.
The government initially offered Pfizer as a second and third shot to specific groups, including medical personnel. However, now that supplies will pick up in volume, it has decided to push ahead with the AstraZeneca-Pfizer combination to maintain the momentum. At least half of the Thai population has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Eligibility for travel overseas
While all double-jabbed people in Thailand will get a vaccine passport for travel overseas, those with one or two Sinovac jabs will have trouble getting into some countries, including the United Kingdom.
The UK currently only recognizes four brands – AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen. This means travelers from Thailand who have received Sinovac will face more restrictions when it comes to visiting the UK. For instance, they will have to undergo more COVID-19 tests.
Those who have received other vaccines offered by the government or an AstraZeneca-Pfizer combination will find it easier to travel.
The AstraZeneca-Pfizer combo is being offered in several other countries, including South Korea, Italy, and Germany.
By Thai PBS World’s General Desk
*Of the 677,348 medical personnel who received two doses of Sinovac, 618 became infected: that’s 0.0009 which works out to 9 out of 10,000.
BANGKOK, July 11 — Thailand’s health ministry said today more than 600 medical workers who received two doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine have been infected with Covid-19, as authorities weigh giving booster doses to raise immunity.
Of the 677,348 medical personnel who received two doses of Sinovac, 618 became infected, health ministry data from April to July showed. A nurse has died and another medical worker is in critical condition.
An expert panel has recommended a third dose to trigger immunity for medical workers who are at risk, senior health official Sopon Iamsirithawon, told a news briefing today.
“This will be a different vaccine, either viral vector AstraZeneca or an mRNA vaccine, which Thailand will be receiving in the near term,” he said, adding that the recommendation will be considered tomorrow.
The announcement comes as the Southeast Asian country reported a record high of 9,418 community infections today. Yesterday authorities reported a record of 91 new daily coronavirus fatalities.
Thailand has reported a total of 336,371 confirmed infections and 2,711 fatalities since the pandemic began last year.
The majority of Thailand’s medical and frontline workers were given Sinovac’s shots after February with the viral vector vaccine from AstraZeneca arriving in June.
Thailand is expecting a donation of 1.5 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines from the United States later this month and has ordered 20 million doses that will be delivered after October.
Neighbouring Indonesia, which has also heavily relied on Sinovac, said on Friday it would give the Moderna vaccine as boosters to medical workers. — Reuters