Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, told a Facebook Live audience the country needed to build up herd immunity to curb the outbreak.
Dr Prasit made his broadcast to update his Thai audience after more than 100 million people had been inoculated around the world.
He said initial results were promising, with a decreasing number of new infections and less harmful side-effects for those given their jabs.
His comments come several weeks after massive inoculation programmes were launched in the US, UK and Israel. Pharmaceutical companies are claiming to have witnessed positive signs about their vaccines’ safety and efficacy.
Dr Prasit cited statistics collected by Our World in Data, which said that 28 million doses had been given to people in the US (6.97% of its population), followed by 23 million doses in China, nine million doses in the UK (12.57%) and 4.66 million does in Israel (33.44%).
The UK started rolling out its vaccines on Dec 8 last year and found that its daily tally of new infections had dropped from 62,322 cases on Jan 6 to about 18,000 cases currently, he said.
Similarly, the US administered its first vaccine on Dec 14 and its average daily infections had dropped from 265,105 on Jan 6 to 107,816 cases at the end of last month, said Dr Prasit.
“It is not yet clear that the decrease is linked to the vaccines’ efficiency but analysis shows that the vaccines have produced non-harmful side-effects so they are quite safe.”
He said Thai people should therefore have confidence about being vaccinated.
“Thai people should not be reluctant to have the vaccines. We need to create herd immunity to improve our social and economic growth,” he said.
“If we need to have more tourism activity, we need to have vaccines en masse by the end of this year and the government is working on that.”
Dr Prasit said that at least 60% of the population should be vaccinated to create herd immunity but that was only an estimate since COVID-19 was still an emerging disease.
He also expressed a specific interest in the vaccine produced by Chinese-state-owned company Sinopharm because it had already been approved by the Chinese Food and Drug Administration.
The Thai government’s plan is to have 26 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine produced by Siam Bioscience by the middle of this year, and 35 million doses delivered directly by the company and two million doses delivered by Sinovac.