Forget about getting two AstraZeneca shots. The main COVID-19 vaccine regimen for Thailand from now on will be the combined Sinovac-AstraZeneca, says a senior health official.
The change has not been formally announced but was discovered accidentally when a state hospital opened registrations for the wrong regimen and had to cancel them.
Siriraj Hospital announced its monthly vaccination schedule on Facebook on Thursday. It said it would administer AstraZeneca to people aged 18 or over who had not yet received any COVID-19 vaccine from 25th September to 3rd October. Bookings were to be made through its Siriraj Connect app from 10th-20th September.
As people prepared to book, the state hospital issued another announcement the next day, apologising for the “inconsistencies”.
It said it had to cancel the previous announcement because the policy of the Ministry of Public Health was to give Sinovac as the first shot and AstraZeneca as the second. It promised to open registrations again when it gets hold of the vaccines it needs.
The about-turn has raised questions about what the policy on free vaccinations is now.
Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the ministry’s Disease Control Department, said the main regimen was now Sinovac as the first shot and AstraZeneca as the second, effective immediately. The main reason behind the change, he said, is to speed up vaccinations.
The AstraZeneca-AstraZeneca formula requires triple the waiting time between shots, at 12 weeks, compared to four weeks for the Sinovac-AstraZeneca cocktail, he said.
As authorities want to fully vaccinate as many people as soon as possible to slow down the spread of the Delta variant, the change is appropriate, Dr Karnkawinpong added. Both regimens offered comparable levels of immunity, he said.
The cabinet on Tuesday approved 4.2 billion baht to buy 12 million more doses of Sinovac to support the mix-and-match vaccine policy. Unlike other brands, the Chinese vaccine is readily available and can be shipped promptly, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said.
Dr Karnkawinpong also reiterated yesterday that 24 million doses of COVID vaccines would be available: 6 million Sinovac, 10 million AstraZeneca and 8 million Pfizer-BioNtech.
In addition, the Chulabhorn Royal Academy will import another 6 million shots of Sinopharm, an alternative vaccine not in the government’s free programme. With ample supply, the ministry will speed up vaccinations to 50% of the population in all provinces, including booster doses for those who have received two Sinovac shots and for children aged 12 and up.