On Monday, the National Communicable Diseases Committee (NCDC) formed a sub-committee and tasked it with overseeing the rollout of the government’s free COVID-19 vaccinations.
Dr Opas Kankawinpong, chief of the Department of Disease Control (DDC), said the sub-committee would be chaired by Dr Sophon Mekthon, an adviser to the public health minister and chairman of the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation.
It will have responsibility for several key decisions, including managing the vaccinations, prioritising the order in which different groups receive their jabs and monitoring the progress of the programme.
The NCDC has also approved switching the method of conducting COVID-19 tests from a throat swab to saliva examination, this is cheaper to administer and has been shown to be more than 90% accurate, said Dr Kankawinpong.
Also on Monday, the Department of Disease Control (DDC) gave its blessing to privately owned hospitals who want to provide COVID-19 vaccinations outside the government’s “free for all Thais” programme.
“The situation with the pandemic is changing fast,” Dr Kankawinpong said.
“We are going to see more pharmaceutical companies requesting Thai Food and Drug Administration approval and that means private hospitals will be able to provide COVID-19 vaccines.”
Last month, the Public Health Ministry ordered a private hospital to remove an advertisement offering to sell Moderna’s vaccine for 10,000 baht per patient.
The ministry said it could not allow the advertisement because the vaccine in question had yet to be approved by the FDA. Dr Kankawinpong said on Monday the DDC could still only approve private sales of the Moderna vaccine once it has been approved by the FDA.
He said pharmaceutical companies had already started rolling out their vaccines and the price would become more and more competitive as supply outpaces demand.
In Thailand, the only pending COVID-19 vaccination is the one offered for free by the state. It is due to be launched next month and run until the end of this year.
Two competing vaccines have been confirmed for use in the state programme: about 60 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca formula and two million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinovac.
The government has prioritised frontline medical staff, volunteers and high-risk groups to get the first two million jabs next month.