According to officials, Day 2 of the campaign (Apr 2) saw a further 4,744 people receive their first injections at the five vaccine “service centres”on the island: 887 at the Phuket Airport X Terminal building; 645 at the Jungceylon shopping mall in Patong; 783 at the Angsana Laguna Phuket resort in Cherng Talay; 1,827 at the Indoor Sports Stadium at Saphan Hin; and 602 at the Phuket Orchid Resort & Spa in Karon.
Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew has made his position plain, urging every person on the island eligible to be vaccinated to register, though some doubt has risen over how urgently the expat community is expected to step up.
As always, the lack of clear explanation has allowed rumours to circulate, some of which have been outright absurd. The Phuket News this past week was told of one rumour claiming that foreigners had been ordered to take the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine, a claim that can be best described as utter rubbish.
At the exact opposite end of the spectrum, other queries claimed that foreigners were being intentionally excluded from the mass vaccination campaign – despite clear, and now repeated, statements from no less than Vice Governors that foreigners will be provided the choice of receiving a state-provided vaccine. The part omitted was when.
Worse, one complaint claimed that foreigners’ names were being removed from the registration lists. That complaint came while one leading Phuket tourism figure at the heart of the campaign, a Thai national, was querying why foreigners names were being added to the lists.
The short explanation for both parties in this tussle is that officials are focussing on Thai citizens registered as living in Phuket as a priority, simply because that is a list they can check off and count, but any persons working in a tourism-related business are also being given priority.
The Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO) and the Governor himself have both made it clear that any persons working in a tourism-related business that want to be vaccinated can do so. They have even set up a special registration form for company human resources workers to enter the names and details of all their staff. The registrations submitted by businesses are being accepted.
Further, provincial officials have ordered more than enough vaccine doses to reach the 70% ‘herd immunity’ mark. To date, Phuket’s new PPHO Chief Kusak Kukiattikoon has given the best breakdown of what is required.
Of the 417,402 people registered in the civil registration database as living in Phuket, 310,357 are eligible to receive the vaccine. State vaccinations will not be provided to those younger than 18 years old.
“The other groups are 94,100 people working in the tourism industry who are not registered as living in Phuket, 5,250 people working in other industries, and 56,700 foreigners living on the island,” he added, providing a total of 573,452 people believed to be on the island today.
Using those figures, to reach the 70% mark 401,416 people must be vaccinated. Phuket has requested that the central government provide 933,174 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, enough for 466,587 people.
But the biggest problem is that the state vaccinations to be provided will be the Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines only. Many people might be experiencing an adverse reaction to that choice alone.
Concerns over Chinese-developed pharmaceutical products aside, a clear reason to delay taking the Sinovac vaccine is why choose to receive a vaccine that is only 50.4% effective in preventing infections – though over 80% in preventing the patient from developing symptoms requiring hospitalisation – when by waiting perhaps six to eight weeks a vaccine will be available that is more than 80% effective in preventing any infection.
As for the AstraZeneca vaccine, the globally reported concerns over possible side-effects of receiving the vaccine would easily be enough to give any person still deliberating whether or not to be vaccinated at all to delay the choice for a while longer.
If the government wants to genuinely give itself the best chance of hitting its 70% vaccination goal by July, it needs to offer choice. The saving grace might have come this week with the announcement of the seven vaccines now recognsied by the Thai government as effective vaccines regarding international tourists looking to come to Phuket, and Thailand.
The seven vaccines now recognised as effective were given as: CoronaVac vaccine by Sinovac (2 doses needed); the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine (2 doses) and the AstraZeneca/Oxford (2 doses) version produced by South Korean vaccine developer SK Bioscience Co Ltd; the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (2 doses); Covishield by the Serum Institute of India (2 doses needed); the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (1 dose); and the and Moderna vaccine (2 doses).
Now that the government has recognised these vaccines are trusted as effective for allowing people into the country, the time has come to decide whether or not to allow the vaccines into the country for people inside Thailand to choose from.
Any further delay will only make the limited choice of Sinovac or AstraZeneca look more and more like a business decision.