21 May 2024

To get vaccinated or not to get vaccinated is a question many Thais are still asking themselves, even as the COVID death toll rises each day.

Deciding whether to get the jab becomes even more difficult when information is unavailable or confusing.

Hence, medical experts from three medical universities have stepped forward to share their knowledge on available COVID-19 vaccines, so Thais can make an informed decision. Below is a summary of their interview on the Rama Channel.

How dangerous is the COVID vaccine?

Dr. Yong Poovorawan, a renowned virologist from Chulalongkorn University, said that crossing Bangkok’s Silom Road is still riskier than receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, despite reports of side effects.

Prof Dr. Kulkanya Chokephaibulkit from Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital backed that up with statistics, pointing out that nearly 2 million people have been vaccinated in Thailand with no fatalities. In comparison, between one and two in every 100 COVID-19 patients in Thailand die daily from the virus.

It is therefore clear that going without a jab carries a far greater risk, especially since hundreds of new infections have been recorded every day this month.

What are the side effects?

Dr. Kulkanya said up to one in 10 recipients suffer mild side effects like fever and swelling at the injection site. Only one in 100,000 people develop more serious side effects like sores, which disappear within a week, she explained.

“Don’t be afraid. Nobody dies, becomes disabled, or develops permanent health conditions from COVID-19 vaccines,” she said.

For extra reassurance, trained staff are on hand at all vaccination stations to ensure people suffering from side effects receive timely help.

Endgame. Whose endgame?

Intensifying vaccination drama in Thailand is taking place against an intriguing international backdrop featuring an apparent race between the West on one side and a Chinese-Russian alliance on the other to pump vaccines into the third world, which is being threatened seriously by COVID-19 at the moment.

Is the threat of blood clots real?

Prof Dr. Pantep Angchaisuksri, who teaches hematology at Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital, said the COVID-19 vaccine does not increase the overall risk of blood-clotting disorders among Thais. However, in Europe, there have been a few unusual cases of blood clotting accompanied by low levels of blood platelets (components that help the blood to clot) after vaccination.

“Generally, Thai people’s risk of developing blood clots is about 10 times lower than Westerners, probably due to genetics,” Dr. Pantep said.

He also said that those infected with COVID-19 have a greater chance of developing blood clots than those who have been vaccinated. So far, there have been no blood clot-related incidents among Thais who have received a COVID jab.

What are the benefits?

The risk of getting infected is halved soon after taking the COVID shot, explained Asst Prof Dr. Kamthorn Malatham, president of the Infectious Disease Association of Thailand and lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital. Protection rises further after the second shot, which is required for the AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines currently available in Thailand.

He added that getting shots protects not just the recipients, but also those around them, helping to restore normal life after the crisis.

Assoc Prof Dr. Thanyavee Puthanakit, deputy head of pediatrics at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, said COVID infection is now rising among children, with as many as 100 admitted to King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital alone.

“Adults can help protect children by achieving herd immunity,” she said. To reach that goal, about 70 percent of the population must be fully inoculated, according to scientists.

Do vaccines vary in efficiency?

Kamthorn said both AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines are effective and should not be compared based on reported efficacy rates, given these figures came from trials conducted at different times in different places.

Is mass vaccination safe?

Dr. Winai Ratanasuwan of Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital said the system being used has made the COVID-19 vaccine rollout safer than any previous vaccine drive in Thailand.

By Thai PBS World’s General Desk