Thailand reaches 1 million COVID-19 cases, plans vaccine boosters

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Thailand’s passed the 1 million mark in coronavirus cases on Friday, 97% of which were recorded in the past five months, as the country struggles to boost vaccinations and get on top of one of Asia’s most severe COVID-19 outbreaks.

Authorities on Friday reported 19,851 cases and 240 fatalities, taking total confirmed infections past 1 million and deaths to 8,826, a death ratio of 0.87% of confirmed cases.

Thailand had kept the coronavirus largely under control and enjoyed only partial restrictions for much of the pandemic until it was hit in April by the virulent Alpha variant, followed later by the Delta variant, when few people were vaccinated.

Health officials have been rushing to shore up vaccine supply having inoculated just 8.3% of its population of over 66 million.

With concerns about efficacy of inactivated virus vaccines against the Delta variant, Thailand is planning to administer booster shots, health official Sopon Iamsirithawon told reporters.

Either the AstraZeneca vaccine or mRNA-type vaccines will be given to the estimated 3.4 million people in Thailand who were administered the Sinovac brand.

Booster doses have already been given to medical and frontline workers who received the Chinese vaccine.

Authorities are also mixing AstraZeneca and Sinovac shots to boost immunity and as a workaround for supply issues.

The government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, including its vaccination policy, has fuelled a recent revival of protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has stood by his administration’s strategy. 

Photo: A large Ramayana Giant Guardian statue wears a face mask as part of a campaign to prevent the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic, at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Samut Prakan province, Thailand. EPA-EFE/RUNGROJ YONGRIT