Walk-in services for COVID-19 vaccinations will not be ready until next month, authorities said on Thursday.
The message disappointed many people after the government announced on Wednesday that its walk-in services would be available in any province that was ready to give free jabs to those who wanted them.
Many people on Thursday contacted hospitals to book their shots and some even walked into vaccination sites requesting them but they were disappointed as authorities said there were no vaccines available on a walk-in basis.
“I told the BMA and the ministry to clarify to prevent any misunderstandings. The services will be ready by June,” said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
He said he had told the Public Health Ministry and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to make things clear.
“I confirm the government plans to offer walk-in services if there are enough vaccine doses,” Gen Chan-o-cha said after inspecting Chulalongkorn University’s vaccination service.
“Every day, we will have vaccine doses in reserve. Rest assured, everyone will receive the vaccine shots for sure.”
Gen Chan-o-cha also said the government attached great importance to the industrial sector for its role in creating jobs and exporting goods, key sources of income for the country.
It was therefore important to step up surveillance against transmissions at factories.
However, he said he was also concerned for all eateries and the service sector as a whole, which has lost much of its income during the pandemic.
The government will take care of all sectors, the PM promised, including factory workers, public bus drivers, taxi motorcycle riders, taxi drivers, and delivery servicemen.
The prime minister insisted that the AstraZeneca vaccine would arrive in Thailand next month as planned.
“Mr Anutin Charnvirakul, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health has confirmed there won’t be any delay,” the PM said.
Mr Charnvirakul assured on Thursday that AstraZeneca and local licensee Siam Bioscience would provide its vaccines as promised.
The country has also stockpiled the Sinovac vaccines from China, he said.
“The companies have told us that the vaccines are now in containers and waiting for the right time for shipment,” Mr Charnvirakul said.
“We will see mass vaccinations starting by next month when we have many millions of doses on our hands.”
The country originally planned to kick off mass vaccinations from June 7 and soon after achieving herd immunity by vaccinating 50 million people, equal to 70% of the population.
But as only 10% of the 16 million targeted people (the elderly and those with seven chronic diseases ) have registered for their jabs, the government adjusted its plan by offering walk-in service nationwide instead.
Mr Charnvirakul admitted he had proposed the walk-in service for those who wanted COVID-19 vaccinations after hearing the number of people who had registered for jabs was less than expected.
However, he said only 20% of vaccine doses had been set aside for walk-ins, so people should understand if they could not be offered it.
Medical teams around the country are already preparing walk-in services, said the minister, but he could not talk for Bangkok because the capital was not under the ministry’s responsibility.
Panruedee Manomaipiboon, director of the BMA’s health department, said the BMA would receive 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from the Public Health Ministry on Monday and planned to vaccinate six million people in the capital by the end of July.
Meanwhile, the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration on Thursday reported 32 new virus-related deaths over the previous 24 hours, bringing the overall toll to 518, plus a record high of 4,887 new cases, raising the total to 93,794. The record daily cases included 2,835 in prisons as revealed by the prisons boss earlier.