A senior Thai health official said Monday that Thailand will discontinue use of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine after the current supply of the medication is exhausted this week.
Thailand relied extensively on Sinovac at first, but soon found the Chinese shots offered inadequate protection against the Wuhan coronavirus, especially its virulent Delta variation. Quality control problems with shipments from China were also reported.
In July, Thailand began a controversial practice of offering AstraZeneca “booster shots” to health workers who had already received two doses of Sinovac. This decision was made after several medical personnel who had been “fully inoculated” with Sinovac contracted Covid-19 and were hospitalized or killed by the disease.
The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) expressed concerns about Thailand’s “mix and match” approach to vaccination, calling it a “dangerous trend” without sufficient scientific evidence to predict the effects of mixing different vaccines.
The dismaying results of using China’s vaccines caused some political problems for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. His administration apologized in July for failing to secure enough “vaccines appropriate for the situation” and promised to do better.
Although Thailand is technically a “middle-income” country, it applied for membership in COVAX, the U.N.-backed program for distributing coronavirus vaccines to poor nations. The Thai government was reportedly reluctant to join COVAX because it disliked some of the program’s restrictions and requirements.
Health official Opas Karnkawinpong said on Monday that Thailand’s mix-and-match strategy has been “effective” despite W.H.O.’s warnings, allowing it to reach 36% vaccination so far, with the goal of reaching 70% by the end of 2021.
However, Karnkawinpong said Thailand will combine AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines for its next purchase of 120 million doses, with an order for 60 million already placed to AstraZeneca.