The government will expedite COVID-19 booster shots to strengthen people’s immunity in preparation for any local transmission of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Ministry Anutin Charnvirakul said yesterday that the time for administering a second COVID-19 vaccine shot and a booster will be reduced from four to six months to three months.
The move is aimed at assuring the public that even if the new variant spreads, the booster shots will help prevent the worst effects of the virus, Mr Charnvirakul said.
He was speaking before attending a meeting of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to provide an update on the Omicron strain and preparations for administering booster shots.
Asked whether the emergence of Omicron will affect New Year festivities, he said that the government will try to allow as many activities as possible to go ahead while monitoring the new strain closely.
Public health agencies were also instructed to study how serious symptoms caused by the Omicron variant are, Mr Charnvirakul said.
If they’re not as severe as previous variants, people should be able to continue with their normal life as they are now, the minister said.
Eight imported cases of the Omicron variant have so far been confirmed in Thailand while another three imported cases are pending confirmation, but local transmission has not been reported yet, according to the Department of Disease Control (DDC).
Dr Udom Kachintorn, adviser to the CCSA, said that it will be difficult for Thailand to avoid the new variant and more imported cases are expected to arrive.
Omicron has been reported in more than 60 countries, he said.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the CCSA, said that an estimated 100 million vaccine doses will be administered to Thais by next Monday.
For next year, there will be enough vaccines for at least 80% of the Thai population, with 120 million doses already approved for the national vaccination drive, Dr Visanuyothin said.
He added that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also instructed agencies to plan a fourth vaccine shot for next year as vaccine manufacturers will come up with new vaccine production technologies to fight the virus.