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Last year Thailand won worldwide praise for its effective measures to contain COVID-19. This year the government is facing growing public outrage over the failure to control new covid outbreaks, and the slow acquisition of vaccines.
Some embassies have had to source vaccines for their own citizens over concerns they may otherwise have to wait too long for the Thai vaccine rollout to reach them. Where did a government that seemed so successful last year go wrong?
Some have suggested complacency, an official belief after months with very few new infections that Thailand had more time before it would need to deploy vaccines.
Questions are being asked
Questions are being asked, and not answered, over the decision to rely almost entirely on Siam Bioscience, a local, palace-owned company with no experience of making vaccines, for the country’s vaccine needs, until an unseemly scramble began this year to procure alternatives.
Bureaucracy, and a lack of urgency in government are being blamed for the slow approval of contracts for new vaccines which take months to arrive. Thailand’s prioritisation of economically important groups, rather than the vulnerable and elderly, for vaccination has been criticised, as has the inadequate levels of testing, and limited surveillance of possible outbreaks when infection rates were low.
Has Thailand really done much worse than its neighbours?
On the other hand, all governments are struggling with the new delta variant of the coronavirus; even those far ahead of Thailand on vaccines like Malaysia are experiencing overwhelming infection levels.
Join us for an online discussion on the FCCT Facebook page on Thursday 22 July at 6pm with these distinguished speakers:
Helene Budliger Artieda, Ambassor of Switzerland
Assistant Professor Dr Puey Ounjai, Department of Biology, Mahidol University
Professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, Chulalongkorn University
Tom Kruesopon, Entrepreneur lobbying for greater private sector involvement in vaccine procurement
Dr. Dhammika Leshan Wannigama, Infectious Diseases Specialist, Scientist and Fellow at Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University