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Vaccine shortage could derail Thailand’s economic recovery

As much of the Asia-Pacific region is gearing up for a 2022 reopening and recovery, Thailand is now lagging behind many countries in vaccine procurement and sluggish vaccine campaign threatens the country’s economic recovery.

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As Thailand enters the second week of its mass rollout of locally produced AstraZeneca vaccines, it appears that supplies are falling short of demand from patients.

The government said it will produce 6 million doses in June, then 10 million doses each month from July to November, and 5 million doses in December. But according to a report from the Bangkok Post, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has admitted today there is a shortage of vaccine, with no deliveries expected this week.

Gen Nattapon Nakpanich, who runs the CCSA’s day-to-day operations, said on Monday no vaccines were scheduled for delivery this week. However, he remained confident the target of 6 million doses this month would be met.

More vaccination appointments to be postponed

In a statement, issued on Saturday, the network of doctors working in Thailand’s rural hospitals, predicts chaos this week, when more vaccination appointments are expected to be postponed and many people will be disappointed.

The statement cited the abrupt closure of 45 vaccination sites in Bangkok, by the Office of Social Security, on Friday, claiming that the real reason for the closures is that they ran out of vaccine, not for improvements of the facilities.

As much of the Asia-Pacific region is gearing up for a 2022 reopening and recovery, Thailand is now lagging behind many countries in vaccine procurement and sluggish vaccine campaign threatens the country’s economic recovery.

The Bank of Thailand previous estimate of GDP’s growth was set at 3% before the beginning of the third wave of Covid-19 in April, but it now includes three different scenarios targeting between 1 and 2% growth depending on the country’s vaccination drive.

For the base scenario, the bank predicts a GDP growth of 2%, assuming that vaccine procurement and distribution reaches 100 million doses this year and leads to herd immunity in the first quarter of 2022.

The Federation of Thai Industries, the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Thai Bankers’ Association also issued a joint statement with a GDP expansion estimate of between 0.5 per cent and 2 per cent.

Hope for reopening to international tourism

Still the launch of Thailand’s mass vaccination program on June 7 has sparked hope that the country can reopen for tourists, a key factor to support economic growth.

In 2019 tourist arrivals numbered about 39.9 million in 2019, earning Thailand Bt2 trillion, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. But arrivals last year plummeted to 6.7 million and Thailand expects to see around 200,000 to 300,000 foreign tourists only this year, according to TAT estimates.

However the Thai government has confirmed its plan to reopen Thailand to foreign tourists, starting with Phuket province as a pilot destination on July 1st, using the Phuket Sandbox model.

The Phuket sandbox is expected to generate 11.49 billion baht in tourism receipts from 129,000 tourists in the first three months from 85,000 travellers in the long-haul market while short-haul countries, excluding China, will contribute 44,000 tourists.

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