On Monday, the mayor of Nakhon Nonthaburi showed up at the Public Health Ministry to proceed with his plan to buy Covid-19 vaccines directly from the government.
The mayor, Somnuek Thanadechakul, said his office has enough money to buy 400,000 doses to cover 200,000 residents.
A national artist is determined to put his home province of Chaiyaphum on the tourist map with a museum to show the glory of the old days. | Jetjaras Na Ranong
His intention, he said, is to ease the central government’s burden and speed up the distribution of the vaccines.
This local politician’s move isn’t an isolated case, as there are reports that as many as 20 local administrative bodies have expressed their desire to launch their own Covid-19 vaccination drive.
This shows how desperate society is for a vaccine, and how far local politicians are ready to go to have their own communities inoculated against the virus as soon as possible.
That enthusiasm — if well directed — can help speed up the country’s Covid-19 inoculation programme, which appears to be going at a snail’s pace when compared to other Asian countries.
On Wednesday, Indonesian president Joko Widodo received his Covid-19 shot, a symbolic gesture which launched the nation’s mass inoculation drive, while India is starting vaccinations next week.
Thailand, with its much lower infection numbers, will give the first two million doses of vaccines to frontline medical personnel, volunteers, essential workers and high-risk groups next month. Mass free jabs won’t be rolled out until May and, if things go as planned, 50% of the population will be inoculated against the virus — the desired rate to achieve herd immunity is 70%.
However, it could also be seen as a worrying sign, if local administrative bodies are competing to secure vaccines. Without proper management, the repercussions would be catastrophic.
The Public Health Ministry could come under criticism for favouritism, and possibly face questions about transparency if it agrees to supply vaccines to a particular local organisation.
The ministry, as such, needs to prepare in advance for a possible competition between provinces and other local administrative units for Covid-19 vaccines. At the same time, the ministry should acquire more vaccines for the private sector and other organisations to purchase. Yet to this date, the ministry has yet to come up with a better solution.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has said the ministry won’t object to local administrations spending their own budget to launch their own vaccination drive. The minister only said they must buy vaccines which are approved by Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In addition, they need to communicate their plans with the Health Ministry to prevent overlap.
That is not sufficient. The Health Ministry could be more proactive by trying to boost the availability of imported vaccines for individuals through private hospitals.
The ministry, which is about to launch the biggest vaccination scheme the country has ever seen, should begin by telling those wishing to purchase the vaccines the do’s-and-don’ts to ensure there is no overlap with the state’s free jabs. The process must be transparent to make sure the prices of vaccines can’t be rigged.
The country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme needs more than vaccines, syringes and medical follow-up. It needs a clear communication strategy, transparency as well as a pro-active policy so all sectors can move in the same direction.
BANGKOK POST EDITORIAL COLUMN
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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