A COVID-19 vaccination drive targeting more than 5.04 million students nationwide kicks off on Monday, in preparation for the new school term which is scheduled to begin in November, as many schools across the country are expecting to resume onsite learning.
The Education Ministry now aims to fully vaccinate students aged 12 to 18 using the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use on children as young as 12.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will on Monday preside over a ceremony at Phiboon Uppatham School in Huai Khwang district of Bangkok to mark the launch of the vaccination drive.
The ministry will vaccinate students in the 29 provinces in the “dark red” zone first before expanding the drive to other parts of the country.
It is considering giving only one shot to boys amid concerns about a rare form of heart inflammation, following a report of such a case in the United States.
So far, only one such case, a 13-year-old boy who is now recovering in hospital, has been reported in Thailand.
A survey by the ministry found more than 90% of parents nationwide are willing to allow their children to be vaccinated, said permanent secretary Supat Jampathong.
To date, 33,047 students, or 88.2% of students in schools under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) management, have signed up for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Last week, the ministry announced its two-phase plan to reopen schools with strict COVID-19 measures.
In the first phase, boarding schools that have already implemented steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission on their grounds since August will be allowed to reopen.
In the second phase, schools that have passed an inspection of their facilities’ readiness to reopen under pandemic restrictions will get the green light to follow suit. Assessments will start this month, according to the ministry.
If schools want to pass the assessment, at least 85% of teachers and staff will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
In another step, schools should also prove they are able to strictly comply with the government’s COVID-19 control measures to ensure student and staff safety, the ministry said.
These schools, however, will be allowed to decide if they want to fully switch to onsite learning, continue with online learning or a combination of both.
In the case of onsite learning, the maximum number of students per classroom will be limited to 25.
Each student will be required to keep at least 1.5 metres away from others while in the room.
The majority of people agree with the Education Ministry’s policy to give COVID-19 vaccines to students aged 12 and over, according to an opinion survey by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University, also known as the Suan Dusit Poll.
The poll was conducted online between 27th-30th September among 1,089 people with children attending schools throughout the country.
Some 75.4% of respondents agreed with the policy, while 24.5% disagreed.
About 61% said they will allow their children to be vaccinated while 26.17% would rather wait and about 12% rejected the plan.
When asked about their concerns over the inoculation of children aged 12-17, 77.6% said they are worried about side-effects, 69.4% were concerned about side-effects in the long run, while 62% wondered who would take responsibility for any unusual effects.
Separately, the central vaccination centre at Bang Sue Grand Station posted on its Facebook page yesterday urging anyone who has yet to receive their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine to register.
In the new vaccination campaign, registrants will receive the Sinovac vaccine as the first shot and AstraZeneca’s jab as the second, 21 days apart, the announcement said.
As for those who have already received two doses of the Sinovac vaccine, they are now encouraged to register for an AstraZeneca booster shot, according to the announcement.
Since 28th February, Thailand has administered 55.10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and 30.81% of the population have received two doses, according to the Ministry of Public Health.
About 32.9 million people, or about 49.11% of the population, have had one shot, the ministry said.