On Thursday, the Department of Disease Control (DDC) defended the government’s decision to procure additional Sinovac vaccine doses despite criticism about its efficacy against COVID-19 variants.
Narinpong Jinaphak, chairman of the Lawyers Association of Thailand, accused the government of failing to protect the public’s health, after the cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposal to procure 10.9 million additional Sinovac vaccine doses at 6.1 billion baht.
He said the decision was made despite doubts over the efficacy of the Chinese vaccine against the Delta variant, which was spreading rapidly and taking over from the Alpha strain as the most dominant variant in Thailand.
Chawetsan Namwat, director of emergencies, health hazards and diseases at the DDC, said the decision to procure additional doses of the Chinese vaccine was made due to its wide availability.
He said other vaccines could not be delivered until the last quarter of this year.
Also, the decision was made based on studies carried out in various countries about the vaccine’s efficacy, Dr Namwat said.
The Sinovac vaccine was effective in reducing symptoms and lowering the chances of death, he said.
In Indonesia, the Sinovac vaccine was 94% effective in preventing symptomatic infections, 96% effective in preventing hospitalisation and 98% effective in preventing COVID-related deaths, Dr Namwat said.
In Chile, the vaccine was 89% effective against severe symptoms while in Brazil, it was 80% effective in preventing symptomatic infections, 86% effective in preventing hospitalisation and 95% effective in preventing COVID-related deaths.
Dr Namwat said the efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine was also studied in Phuket, where it was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing infections.
In a Chiang Rai study, the vaccine’s efficacy among health personnel was 82.8% in preventing infections, he said.
He said the studies were carried out during the spread of the Alpha strain and the vaccine is effective in reducing the effects of other variants.
Meanwhile, Mr Jinaphak said the purchase of the Sinovac jabs was against the constitution, noting the government was obligated to provide efficient healthcare services to the people.
“A debate is ongoing about whether the vaccine can or cannot prevent Delta variant infections,” he said. “It is effective only in preventing deaths.”
“So the planned procurement isn’t in compliance with the charter and causes damage to the nation and the people,” he said.