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No plan for fifth shot yet over safety fears

No plan for fifth shot yet over safety fears

BANGKOK: The Ministry of Public Health has yet to endorse a fifth COVID-19 jab for the general public over concerns about its efficacy and safety, the Department of Disease Control said yesterday (June 6).

By Bangkok Post

Tuesday 7 June 2022, 08:59AM

DDC director-general Opas Karnkawinpong said those who believe they need to get a fifth shot should consult their physicians, reports the Bangkok Post.

These include those who need to travel to China (which requires foreign visitors to have two Sinovac or Sinopharm jabs) or Japan (which mandates three shots - one of which should be an mRNA vaccine).

Those who have had four shots but suffer from low immunity against COVID due to underlying health conditions and/or other factors may also be recommended for a fifth shot by their doctors, though the recommendation will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Separately, the chief of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration’s (CCSA) operations centre Supoj Malaniyom dismissed claims that the government will start rolling out the fifth shot as the vaccines it has in stock are about to expire.

“We ask people not to worry about expiration dates because we will not distribute expired vaccines. We have yet to allow everyone to get their fifth shot,” he said.

Those who require a fifth shot can visit the Central Vaccination Centre at Bang Sue Grand Station. The facility provides vaccines for anyone aged five years old and older. The service is available daily from 9am to 4pm.

Pandemic nearly over, say experts

Meanwhile, Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University has said Thailand is ready to treat COVID-19 as an endemic disease, largely thanks to decreasing daily infections, a falling death rate and better public health security.

The keynote speaker at “Forbes Thailand Forum 2022: Think Ahead, Future Next”, hosted by the Bangkok Post Public Company Limited, Dr Prasit said that figures released in April indicated that COVID-19 is now in decline globally.

The renowned doctor also noted that several countries now allow people not to wear face masks outdoors if they wish, reports the Bangkok Post.

He said that the appearance of the Omicron variant had taught the country a valuable lesson in how to control a fast-spreading outbreak without consequence due to its relatively mild symptoms.

Any new variant that could derail the global recovery would have to spread even more rapidly and also induce far more severe symptoms, which seems highly unlikely, if not impossible, at the moment, he added.

“Such a situation is hard to envisage. We can say that we are nearing the end of the [COVID-19] pandemic. Many people are talking about the announcement of endemic status despite the World Health Organization [WHO] having yet to issue any formal guidance on the matter,” he said.

“Whether classified as endemic or not, what we are ultimately concerned with are the two key qualities of ‘predictability’ and ‘manageability’. Right now, I believe that the country is ready to treat COVID-19 as an endemic disease,” Dr Prasit stressed.

He went on to say that Thailand has done very well to bring the death rate down to 0.09%.

CBRE Phuket

“Bringing the COVID-19 death rate below 0.1% was one of the criteria set by the Ministry of Public Health before a downgrade could happen. Meanwhile, the proportion of citizens to have received vaccine boosters should be above 50%, compared with the current 44.8%.”

Dr Prasit went on to warn that the country should prepare for the next pandemic and increase vaccine technology development and the available levels of medical equipment that are known to quickly fall into short supply.

“Further investment in mRNA-based vaccines is very important as it has the potential to facilitate the production of vaccines against newly emerging diseases within six months,” he said.

Moreover, he added that COVID-19 has already sparked a drive in medical innovation, both technologically and holistically in terms of fostering levels of health that allow societies to ward off outbreaks with less need for medical intervention.

Regarding Siriraj Hospital, he said that it is now in the process of developing AI technology to identify patients living with depression using algorithmic analysis of muscular activity caused by changes in an individual’s facial expressions during examination alongside corresponding changes in vocal tone.

The hospital has also begun investigating the use of intestinal microchip technology to measure blood sugar in diabetes patients in order to provide instant feedback on the suitability of their diet, he said. The ministry looks set to officially note the end of the pandemic in June, followed by declaring it to be an endemic disease from the beginning of July.

At the same event, the DDC’s Karnkawinpong said that the reopening of night-time entertainment venues is so far believed to have had little impact on the falling infection rate.

However, Dr Opas responded to fears over new clusters by urging full cooperation from all stakeholders when necessary.

Dr Opas said the department has implemented an Out-Patient Department scheme to handle any new minor outbreaks that may be reported.

There were 27 deaths recorded nationwide yesterday as a result of the virus while the death rate has now fallen to 0.09%.

Of the 27 deaths, 26 were members of the so-called 608 group, comprising people aged 60 years and above, those with underlying diseases and pregnant women.

Some 59% of those who died had not been vaccinated, while 30% had received only a single dose and no follow-up booster, Dr Opas said.

Only 375 patients still depend on ventilators, and only 10% of beds for severe cases are occupied, said Dr Opas.

Most deaths were still among high-risk groups, such as the elderly or those with pre-existing health conditions, he added.

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