While the military-backed government has all but told the public to be grateful for what vaccines they can get, a leaked document shows the men in uniform went through backdoor channels to try to get their own supply of Moderna doses.
Public outrage over the government’s botched vaccination campaign, which has led to protests demanding more effective mRNA-based vaccines, erupted anew yesterday over a leaked document detailed an army attempt to secure a supply of Moderna-made vaccines from the Thai Red Cross for its personnel and their families.
It was the other shoe dropping for many, coming as citizens queue in the streets for hospital beds and at least seven medical professionals died despite being fully vaccinated with less effective, Chinese-made vaccines. More than 800 have become infected with COVID-19 despite receiving two doses of Sinovac.
Since the document leaked, people have called upon the Thai Red Cross to deny the military’s request and give priority to medical workers and those most vulnerable.
“What would soldiers need free Modern vaccines for?” celeb chef and doctor Dissakul Prasitruangsuk wrote on Twitter. “People have booked them with their own money, but [the military] sent a letter to use the people’s tax money and reap what the people have sown. What will your duties be after getting vaccinated? Dispersing protesters?”
Maj. Gen. Teerapong Pattamasing Na Ayuthaya, Royal Thai Army spokesperson, said last night that army commander Gen. Chalermpol Srisawat has been informed of the request and a probe is underway.
Pro-status quo and self-styled “military reporter” Wassana Nanuam described the document as “not fake” but “not official either” despite its bearing an official stamp and registry number. She claimed that she had contacted the military department to verify the document’s authenticity.
Thailand’s vaccine situation is drawing anger from drawn criticism from many quarters.
For months, have been anxious for the government to get ahold of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA-based vaccines. In the meantime, Thailand has relied on only three brands to vaccinate: Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm.
The government recently signed a deal with Pfizer to procure 20 million vaccines by the end of the year. The U.S. government, meanwhile, has donated 1.5 million doses of Pfizer due as soon as next week, many of which have been earmarked as booster shots for frontline healthcare workers.
After being prevented from acquiring their own supplies, private hospitals have put doses of Moderna up for advance sale. The vaccines, however, aren’t expected to arrive until the fourth quarter. The Thai Red Cross is now in charge of administering 1 million doses while the rest have yet to be determined, despite the deposits paid by private citizens in advance to the hospitals.
Officials yesterday finally acknowledged the slow vaccine rollout and, a year later, said they would join the U.N.-backed COVAX program to receive additional vaccines next year. Thailand was the only Southeast Asian nation not to participate.
Health officials today confirmed yet another record-high COVID-19 infections of 14,575 and 117 deaths. More than 14 million shots have been administered to an uncertain number of people. Most recipients have only had one shot.
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