BANGKOK (THAILAND): After reports emerged of blood clots in some vaccinated people in Europe, Thailand has delayed the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine scheduled to start on Friday.
Thailand will become the first country outside of Europe to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca shot. Other countries including Canada, Australia, the Philippines and South Korea said they would go ahead. The nation last week received 117,300 doses of imported AstraZeneca vaccine, which the prime minister and his cabinet had been scheduled to receive on Friday
In a health ministry news conference, Prasit Watanapa, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, confirmed the rollout would be delayed.
“AstraZeneca is still a good vaccine but with what has happened … the health ministry based on this advice would like to postpone the usage of the AstraZeneca vaccine momentarily,” Kiattiphum Wongjit, permanent secretary for the Public Health Ministry.
Yong Poonvorawan, a Thai virology expert, told the news conference the investigation would also check on whether any issues might be related to particular batches in Europe and said the vaccines supplied to Thailand were made in Asia.
Thailand was in a position to suspend the rollout for safety investigations because it had largely brought a second wave of coronavirus under control through quarantines and border controls, he said.
AstraZeneca said on Thursday it had found no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis – marked by the formation of blood clots – in safety data of more than 10 million records, even when considering subgroups based on age, gender, production batch or country of use.
More than 11 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine have so far been administered across the United Kingdom.
Just over 26,500 COVID infections and 85 fatalities were recorded by Thailand in a population of 66.5 million. New cases are now registering below 100 per day.
“This may reflect how much the decision makers in a country tolerate temporary uncertainty about vaccine safety and balance that against the vaccine’s undoubted benefits of protection from COVID-19,” said Julie Leask, a public health professor at the University of Sydney, referring to varying government decisions.
Thailand’s vaccination strategy is heavily reliant on the AstraZeneca shot to be produced locally with 61 million doses reserved for its population.
However, the Thai-produced AstraZeneca is not due until at least June, and Thailand last week began limited inoculations with 200,000 imported doses of Sinovac vaccine from China.