Pressure Mounts On Government To Procure Better COVID-19 Shots

Doctors Want Better Shots
Members of the Mor Mai Thon ('Doctors Won't Tolerate it') group hold a banner demanding the government procure more mRNA vaccines for the people. 

On Wednesday, a group calling itself “Mor Mai Thon” (Doctors Won’t Tolerate it) submitted a petition with more than 200,000 signatures to parliament to pressure the government to procure mRNA vaccines for Thais.

Black-clad members of the group handed 215,409 signatures from a campaign launched on to the parliament president and politicians from the government and opposition parties.

Somboon Uthaiwiankul, secretary to the parliament president, accepted the petition.

Santi Kitwattanapaiboon, the group leader, said it wanted the government to speed up imports of mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna, and use them as Thailand’s main vaccine to inoculate people for free.

“These vaccines are highly effective against the variants of the coronavirus,” Dr Kitwattanapaiboon said. He also called on the government to disclose information regarding the procurement and distribution of vaccines. These procedures should be transparent and open to the public, he said.

On Tuesday, the cabinet had approved a proposal to procure 20 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

It had also given the green light for another proposal to import the Moderna vaccine as an alternative choice, as well as a plan to import 10.9 million more doses of the Sinovac jab.

Pita Limcharoenrat, leader of the opposition Move Forward Party, also accepted the petition from the group on Wednesday.

He also thanked medical workers for looking after COVID-19 patients and said mRNA vaccines should be administered to health workers first because they have been sacrificing themselves to save people’s lives.

Asked to comment on the petition submitted by the group, Gen Natthapol Nakpanich, head of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration’s operation centre, said the government was ready to listen to their opinions.

If things go according to plan, some Pfizer vaccines are expected to arrive this month or next month and they will be administered to medical personnel on a voluntary basis, Gen Nakpanich said.

Meanwhile, Parliament President Chuan Leekpai on Wednesday put the brakes on a proposal to provide the third shot of COVID-19 vaccine to MPs, senators and parliamentary staff. He insisted vaccines should be given to medical personnel first, adding that parliamentary meetings have followed strict precautionary measures against COVID-19.