Thailand aims to vaccinate 70% of people by September

3 minute read

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample from a man from Klong Toey community, for a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

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BANGKOK, May 19 (Reuters) - Thailand is aiming to administer one shot of a coronavirus vaccine to 70% of its population by September, its health minister said on Wednesday, as it seeks to provide protection for more people faster amid its deadliest outbreak so far.

Thailand has yet to start a mass immunisation programme and has been scrambling to secure vaccines from multiple brands after a new, more potent COVID-19 outbreak that has seen cases nearly quadruple and fatalities increase six-fold since early April.

"We will focus on the first shots of vaccination to meet the target of 70% of the population by September," Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said in a statement.

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He reassured the public there would be no need to reserve a second shot as there would be doses available.

The government had previously aimed to vaccinate the 70% needed to reach herd immunity by the end of the year but has been criticised for being slow to procure vaccines and for a strategy that had relied overwhelmingly on one manufacturer, AstraZeneca (AZN.L).

Thailand is scheduled to start its main drive next month, when locally manufactured AstraZeneca doses are available.

Just over 1.5 million of Thailand's more than 66 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, mostly that of Sinovac Biotech (SVA.O). Those include medical workers or people with pre-existing health conditions.

Thailand has also placed orders for the vaccine developed by Pfizer (PFE.N) and BioNTech (22UAy.DE). Authorities have so far approved the vaccines of Sinovac, AstraZenaca, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and Moderna (MRNA.O).

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Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alex Richardson

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