Thai PM gets first shot of AstraZeneca vaccine after safety scare

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha became the first person to be inoculated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in the Southeast Asian country on Tuesday after the rollout had been temporarily put on hold over safety concerns.

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Prayuth and other cabinet members had been initially due to get their vaccine shots on Friday, before Thailand suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports it could cause blood clots prompted a number of European countries to hit pause.

“Today I’m boosting confidence for the general public,” Prayuth told reporters at Government House, before he received a shot in his left arm.

Prayuth, who will turn 67 this month, later said he felt fine after the injection.

Thailand’s health minister said on Monday the rollout would resume after many countries had said there were no blood clot issues with the vaccine.

Thailand has started vaccinating frontline health workers and other groups including government officials using imported shots but the country’s overall vaccination strategy is heavily reliant on making the AstraZeneca vaccine domestically.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is due to be produced by a company owned by the country’s king, with 61 million doses reserved for the country’s population.

The Thai-produced AstraZeneca vaccine is not expected to be available until at least June, when Thailand plans to begin its mass inoculation campaign.

Prayuth and his cabinet were injected with some of the 117,300 doses of imported AstraZeneca vaccine Thailand received for emergency use earlier this month.

Thailand previously imported 200,000 doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac. A further 800,000 CoronaVac doses would arrive later this month, followed by a million more in April.

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Ed Davies