Asean countries embrace Chinese vaccines

Shot in the arm: A health worker receiving a dose of Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac vaccine at the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi, Thailand. — Bloomberg

When a plane carrying Thailand’s first batch of Covid-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac landed at an airport in Bangkok, people waiting on the tarmac cheered and applauded.

“Thank you to China for delivering the first batch of vaccines this month and the following batches in the subsequent months, ” said Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, when he welcomed the vaccines’ arrival at the airport on Wednesday.

Prayut expressed his gratitude while a refrigerated container, with a banner reading “Covid-19 vaccines, returning smiles to Thailand” written in Thai, was lowered from the plane.

The Chinese vaccines would be distributed to 13 provinces of Thailand to prioritise healthcare staff and those most at risk, while more vaccine shipments are expected to arrive in March and April.

Thailand is heavily reliant on tourism but it recently has seen a drop in tourism due to Covid-19.

It is widely expected that the Covid-19 vaccines will be a game-changer.

The arrival of the Sinovac vaccines marks a significant move to jumpstart the vaccination process in Thailand and thus catch up with other Asean member countries, said Tang Zhimin, director of China Asean Studies at the Bangkok-based Panyapiwat Institute of Management.

Elsewhere in the region, countries have ordered, received or approved the emergency use of Chinese vaccines.

Among the biggest takers of the Chinese vaccines is Indonesia, which has ordered a large number of doses of the Sinovac vaccine.

In a livestream, Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Jan 13 rolled up his sleeves to receive his first shot of the Sinovac vaccine, kicking off the nation’s mass inoculation campaign.

The massive vaccination programme would help Indonesia achieve herd immunity after 181.5 million people, or around two thirds of the country’s population, are inoculated within 15 months, said Indonesia’s Deputy Minister of Health Dante Saksono.

Meanwhile, the Philippines launched its Covid-19 vaccination drive yesterday, less than a day after the arrival of a batch of the Sinovac vaccine CoronaVac donated by China. — Xinhua

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