The Ministry of Public Health downplayed concerns yesterday over the possibility that COVID-19 may soon be declared endemic in Thailand, saying the costs of medical treatment and vaccination won’t be transferred to infected individuals once the disease is formally recognised as such.
Moreover, it will take time before a proposal to change the status of the pandemic can be endorsed, depending on how the COVID-19 situation in the country fares, said Dr Kiatiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health.
When quizzed on what will happen to healthcare costs if COVID-19 is declared endemic, he drew a comparison with the common flu.
Patients would still receive treatment under whatever healthcare schemes they have registered with, be it the universal health care scheme operated by the National Health Security Office, the social security system, or the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme, he said.
As all Thais are now entitled to free annual vaccination against influenza, the COVID-19 vaccination programme will likely be the same when the disease is declared endemic, Dr Wongrajit said.
Such details and other measures are still being drafted, he noted.
An announcement on Thursday by the national committee on communicable diseases pertaining to criteria tentatively set for declaring COVID-19 endemic sparked concern over whether infected patients would be treated differently and have to bear more healthcare costs.
Among the most prominent critics was Prof Dr Thiravat Hemachudha, chief of the Thai Red Cross’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Centre.
He questioned whether the no-fault financial compensation programme would remain in place for those who suffer adverse effects after receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations.
As of yesterday, he said, 1.2 billion baht had been paid in compensation to 10,544 of 13,825 people who have made such a request after suffering what they believe to be vaccination-induced harmful effects.