The coronavirus shot developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford will be Thailand’s “principal vaccine” as the country seeks to revive its crucial tourism sector, the Thai public health minister told CNBC on Monday.
Renewed safety concerns around the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot led countries including Germany and the Netherlands to halt the use of the vaccine for people under 60.
Before those latest moves, several countries — including Thailand — suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of blood clots in some people who received the shot. But many lifted their suspensions after the World Health Organization said its review of available data showed the vaccine’s benefits outweighing any risks.
A health worker holds a box of the AstraZeneneca vaccine at the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi province on the outskirts of Bangkok.
Chaiwat Subprasom | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images
In Thailand, more than 150,000 people have been inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and the percentage of people who developed side effects “is considered very low,” said Anutin Charnvirakul, the country’s deputy prime minister and public health minister.
Anutin told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” that Thailand is awaiting further deliveries of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which are expected around June. In addition to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Thailand also uses one developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, said the minister.
Since end-February, nearly 250,000 people in Thailand have received Covid vaccines, said Anutin.
Attracting foreign visitors
Compared with many countries globally, Thailand has reported relatively few Covid cases and deaths. Official data showed that as of Sunday, the country has confirmed more than 29,000 infections and 95 deaths.
But its tourism-dependent economy has been badly hit, shrinking 6.1% in 2020 compared with a year ago as countries restricted travel to slow the spread of Covid-19, according to data from the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council.
Thailand is ramping up efforts to restart its tourism industry, including rolling out vaccines in “significant” numbers in popular tourist destinations such as Phuket and Koh Samui, said Anutin.
“We want to make sure that our people are safe, that is our first priority. So once our people are safe, we believe that our guests, namely tourists or any business people, would definitely come to visit our country,” said the minister.
To attract visitors, Thailand has shortened the quarantine period for foreigners arriving into the country starting this month. The country is also aiming to waive quarantine requirements for vaccinated foreign visitors to its biggest holiday island Phuket.
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