Thailand aims to increase vaccines by 50%; aims to reopen to tourists

Thailand aims to increase its vaccine order by more than 50% to 100 million doses this year in a bid to achieve herd immunity, as spike in local infections threatens to derail plans to reopen borders in the country. tourism and restarting the economy.

The government plans to purchase an additional 35 million doses from two or three manufacturers with the aim of administering them all by the end of 2021, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said a day after chairing a meeting on the new country’s immunization plan. The National Vaccine Institute is in talks with Pfizer Inc. for up to 10 million doses, he said Tuesday.

Thailand’s intensified vaccination efforts come as Moody’s Investors Service has warned that a new wave of Covid-19 cases threatens to further derail an economy that relies on tourism for about a fifth of gross domestic product. Infections have increased by more than 60% so far this month, prompting at least two GDP revaluations, while less than 1% of Thais have received at least one of two doses of the vaccine.

Read: Thailand’s restrictions to hamper economic recovery: Moody’s

“The deployment has been too slow,” said Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary general of the Eastern Economic Corridor Office, who attended Tuesday’s meeting with the prime minister, in an interview.

Thailand has so far relied on gunfire from Sinovac Biotech Ltd. for its workers and employees in the priority sector for at least 60 years. It also ordered 61 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc jabs to be manufactured locally by Siam Bioscience Ltd. which will be delivered from June.

Faster deployment

With a resurgence, the goal should be to administer the vaccines as quickly as possible in order to reopen them to tourists and foreign investors, said Kanit, who is also a member of the Bank of Thailand’s monetary policy committee. “If we cannot contain the epidemic situation and cannot achieve collective immunity, no one will come here.”

Thailand has announced its intention to reopen Phuket from July by lifting the quarantine for vaccinated foreign tourists visiting. It uses the resort island as a testing ground before expanding similar easing measures to other destinations such as Koh Samui.

Phuket is set to inoculate 70% of its adult population by July and the current outbreak is not expected to delay the planned reopening, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, chairman of the Phuket Tourism Association said on Wednesday. The island will vaccinate 47% of its population by the end of May, a level similar to the current level in the Maldives, he said.

Thailand’s central bank has said its 3% growth forecast for this year is at downside if its target of 3 million tourists is not met. The country’s tourism industry generated more than $ 60 billion in revenue from around 40 million foreign visitors in 2019.

“The epidemic situation and vaccine rollout are two separate issues, and as long as we can achieve the goal of herd immunity, we can reopen,” said Bhummikitti, whose association represents around 300 members, including luxury hotels and five star hoteliers in Phuket. . “It’s an unstoppable plan.”