As 1.5 million doses of Pfizer vaccines were unloaded at Suvarnabhumi Airport just before dawn, they were greeted by billboards which had cropped up around Bangkok with a single question: Who will get them?
Billboards erected at several spots around the capital city pushed an issue raised by a coalition of medical professionals who want an honest accounting of who will benefit from the U.S.-donated vaccines – and whether they will go to those most in need.
“Today Thailand got 1.5 million doses of Pfizer vaccines,” they read. “But no one knows how many of them will go to vulnerable groups.” “Who are you actually giving the Pfizer vaccines to?” read another.
Hours after several large pallets holding 1,503,450 doses of Pfizer’s much-sought vaccine were unloaded, medical professionals gathered at 11am outside the Health Ministry to deliver a petition asking for transparency and clarification of how many vaccines will go to which groups.
1,503,450 doses of #Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine arrived early this morning at BKK.
Thai-American U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth announced earlier this week another one million doses would follow for a total 2.5 million donated doses of the mRNA vaccine. #วัคซีนไฟเซอร์ pic.twitter.com/uMSVTp0Ysj
— Coconuts Bangkok (@CoconutsBangkok) July 30, 2021
Nearly half of the donation had been promised as booster shots to medical frontliners, hundreds of whom have been getting sick despite two doses of the less effective, Chinese-made Sinovac.
It’s not the first time the group of medics – consisting of health care groups Nurses Connect, Doctors For Transparency, Public Health Association and others – have taken action due to fear that some of the highly effective vaccines would be filched by Thailand’s always-get-their-way “VVIPs.”
On Tuesday dozens gathered in front of the American Embassy on Wireless Road to ask for details about the distribution of 1.54 million donated Pfizer vaccines amid fear they would be funneled away from those most in need.
Thailand’s Health Ministry initially said 700,000 were earmarked for those in medicine. In subsequent communication, the ministry reduced that to 500,000 without explanation, leading some to suspect interference by the endemically corrupt, military-backed government.
A source with knowledge of the donation not authorized to talk to the media said the embassy only stipulated that they not be sold for profit.
Just last week, public outrage was ignited by a leaked document showing one military agency had attempted to secure much-wanted Moderna vaccines for soldiers through back channels.
Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-0-cha said through a spokesperson yesterday that he ordered his subordinates not to divert any of the vaccines for the power elite.
Earlier this week, Thai-American U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth announced that another one million Pfizer doses would follow the initial donation. The United Kingdom has donated 415,000 doses of AstraZeneca.