The government’s plan to roll out the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine ran into another hurdle on Friday after the Public Health Ministry suddenly called a halt to inoculations following reports in Europe of blood clots developing after the vaccine was administered.
The decision was made yesterday morning before Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and senior cabinet members were due to receive their jabs at the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province.
Despite saying he was ready to lead by example, Gen Chan-o-cha yesterday told media that he would back the Health Ministry’s advice to hold off having the jab for now.
“I have prepared to get the inoculation. I am not afraid of taking this jab. I have lived this long and there is nothing that I am afraid of,” he said when asked if he was worried about side effects.
For this second postponement of the AstraZeneca roll-out, the Public Health Ministry ensured that a number of the country’s most credible medical experts were in attendance at the media briefing, including Prof Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital.
The doctor said that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) was taking another look at certain aspects of the vaccine but had not changed its advice that it is safe to be widely administered.
He said that overall statistics from the rollout so far showed no correlation per 100,000 in blood clots after a woman died in Denmark from coagulation disorders and an illness from a pulmonary embolism after her vaccination.
Dr Kulkanya Chokephaibulkit, also from the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, agreed.
“There have been no other similar cases around the world, however the order to temporarily suspend injections while an investigation is carried out is totally normal,” said Dr Chokephaibulkit, chairman of the committee on Adverse Events Following Immunization.
Dr Yong Poovorawan, the chief of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, added that “European people are three times more susceptible to blood clots than Asians”.
Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said the 117,300 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine shipped to Thailand late last month were sent from a factory in South Korea, while the suspected ABV5300 batch used in the European Union was produced locally.
Dr Nakorn Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute, said that the case should have no impact on plans for Siam Bioscience to begin domestic production at the end of May.
The World Health Organization yesterday said there was no link between the jab and an increased risk of developing a clot.