Thai campaign to vaccinate schoolchildren makes progress

Bangkok, Sep 21 (AP):
Health officials in the Thai capital made headway Tuesday in their effort to vaccinate children against the coronavirus, giving shots of the Pfizer vaccine to students aged 12 to 18 with underlying diseases.
Vaccinations for that age bracket were first offered last month through hospitals, but now are arranged by schools. A separate campaign by a medical research institute began inoculating children aged 10 to 18 with China’s Sinopharm vaccine. On Tuesday, 1,500 students received shots of the Pfizer vaccine, 800 for the first time and 700 as a follow-up to their first shot in August. Bangkok officials have asked the Health Ministry to provide more Pfizer vaccine to inoculate all children aged 12 to 18 in the capital city, said city Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang.
Many schools have been closed for onsite learning since last December, and Aswin said he does not want to allow them to reopen until 70per cent of a total of more than 1 million students are vaccinated. He hopes to reach that goal in November if adequate vaccine supplies are available. The Health Ministry plans to give Pfizer shots to students aged 12 to 18 nationwide from Oct. 4, starting with the 29 provinces most badly affected by the coronavirus, including Bangkok. Bangkok has been the worst hit province since another wave of the pandemic began in April this year. Nearly one-quarter of Thailand’s more than 1.4 million COVID-19 cases confirmed since the pandemic began last year were found in Bangkok.
According to the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, 97.5per cent of Bangkok’s 7.69 million people have received at least the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 41.6per cent are fully vaccinated. The Health Ministry on Tuesday announced 10,919 new COVID-19 cases and 143 deaths, bringing the totals since last year to 1.5 million cases and 15,612 deaths. Disease Control Department director-general, Dr Opas Karnkawinpong said the National Vaccine Institute was in talks to buy at least 50 million doses each of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, which would be second-generation if they are successfully developed in time. According to reports, the vaccines will be of various types including mRNA, viral vector and protein subunit. So far this year, Thailand has taken delivery of six million doses in June and 10 million each in July and August, in line with scheduled plans, he said.
The department has also been in talks with AstraZeneca for a bigger monthly supply of the vaccine for the rest of the year. For September, AstraZeneca has agreed to supply 7.2 million doses, he said.
The national vaccination programme got off to a slow start in June as AstraZeneca supplies were below target and authorities had few over options in hand.
However, the campaign has gradually picked up with an improvement in vaccine availability and choices. In the past two weeks, vaccinations have exceeded 500,000 on most weekdays.
Businesses and activities will resume so that people can restore their normal life and relieve their hardship as much as possible,” CCSA assistant spokeswoman Dr Apisamai Srirangson said.
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