Public health minister gives moral support to embattled Dr. Yong Poovorawan

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has given moral support to Dr. Yong Poovorawan, head of Chulalongkorn University’s Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology, who is under pressure by an online campaign for his removal from the centre over his support of government vaccination policies without sufficient medical evidence.

Mr. Anutin told the media at the Public Health Ministry on Tuesday that he called Dr. Yong on the phone to give the latter his moral support, saying that the campaign for his removal is very unfair.

During the brief conversation, he said he felt Dr. Yong remains unperturbed and unwavering in wake of the signature campaign in the social media against him and will continue to do his job to give medical information to the people.

“People say that the Golden Mount does not know fear, but Dr. Yong is more than that.  He is a very strong-willed man,” said Mr. Anutin.

Separately in his Facebook post, the health minister praised Dr. Yong as a person who has been beneficial to the Thai health system and has well wishes for Thailand.

That Dr. Yong was accused of distorting information in favor of a specific make of COVID-19 vaccine stems from the fact that the well-known virologist has merely wanted to inform the Thai public about the vaccine so they have trust in vaccines which are key element in containing the spread of the pandemic, said Mr. Anutin.

A signature collection campaign has been launched on webpage to demand Chulalongkorn University remove Dr. Yong as head of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology, accusing him of supporting Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine which they claim of low quality and lack medical evidence to support the vaccine.

Dr. Yong was also accused of supporting the government’s previous policy to extend the gap between two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from 10-12 weeks to 16 weeks, without citing medical research to back his claim on the efficacy of the delayed second dose.

The government did not provide explanations for the extension of the second dose, but the decision came amid slow vaccine rollout and widespread postponements of vaccination appointments in early and mid-June. The policy has since been changed back to 10-12 weeks, with the government citing the need to curb the spread of the virulent Delta variant.

As of Wednesday morning, over 8.700 people have signed up in support of the campaign.

Meanwhile, a counter-campaign has also emerged in the social media, called “Save Dr. Yong”, urging netizens to sign up in support of the virologist.


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