No country for old men (or women) as society’s vulnerable are being left behind in vaccine rollout
Over the weekend, several hospitals in Bangkok, and many other provinces, postponed vaccination appointments for this week. Today (Monday), the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) did the same for its 25 non-hospital vaccination sites.
This, however, is not the first time. Thailand’s mass inoculation campaign, which began last Monday, has hit hurdles from the start, as many people were called last Monday morning to be told that their appointments for later that day had been postponed indefinitely.
Questions were raised as to why vaccine allocations did not meet the demand, as defined by registrations on the government’s online platforms made several weeks in advance.
The government had announced that June and July would be dedicated to vaccinating the elderly population and those with chronic respiratory disease, heart and blood vessel disease, chronic kidney disease, cerebrovascular disease, stroke, cancer, obesity or diabetes.
As it turns out, however, the vulnerable in society are being left behind, as some people, who are not members of high-risk groups or any state agencies, have received their jabs, leaving many who registered online perplexed as to how they have manipulated this.
This has now become the norm, as the elderly’s younger and healthier fellow men and women, who are covered by social security, have been vaccinated, some with both doses already, as their workplaces registered them en masse.
Deputy Public Health Minister Satit Pitutacha said last week that hospitals have been instructed not to postpone vaccine appointments, as the elderly and those with the specific diseases are most vulnerable to severe health conditions and death as a result of COVID-19.
As actions speak louder than words, it has become clearer now that the government’s vaccination campaign is suffering from misplaced priorities, but it is also clearer that there are vaccine shortages, as a result of slow rollouts, with such a charge being repeatedly denied by the country’s leaders.
1.8 million doses of locally produced AstraZeneca have been delivered so far, out of 61 million doses ordered. With reports of delayed deliveries of AstraZeneca doses, produced in Thailand, to Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines, doubts have been cast on Siam Bioscience’s AstraZeneca production capacity and distribution of the vaccine in Asia.
While pointing fingers at each other, instead of resolving the issue together, no entity is taking responsibility. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said repeatedly that all provinces have been allocated vaccines, and that it is each provincial administration’s responsibility to distribute and administer them.
The Public Health Ministry said in a statement that it has given 1 million doses to the BMA, while the latter says that it had only received half of that.
With a rather chaotic first week of nationwide vaccine rollout, and more hurdles ahead, it is essential not to lose sight of our priorities and the needs of those who the nation should protect.
By Hathai Techakitteranun