EDITORIAL: The government needs to be focused when dealing with limited vaccine supply

Thailand has already encountered the UK variant, the Indian variant, and the most concerned variant of South Africa, and this is a very clear signal worth to be noted or borne in mind how the whole society can be easily susceptible to the virus. The government must make sure that it understands the conditions and challenges posed by the virus and its variants deeply and is able to keep up with them when making a decision on how best to distribute the limited vaccine supply

By the time that the critical period of 10 to 14 days of the latest restrictions imposed early and then in the middle of this month has passed, we have learned now that they cannot be much of help in curbing the virus.

Covid-19 hit the country the third time in early April, and since it has not yet lost strength. This is particularly true in the city of Bangkok and its peripheries, where the circumstances are far more complicated than upcountry. The virus still keeps spreading in the city, with today’s record that still sees up to 38 clusters spreading over half of the city or 30 districts.

There are some factors at play. First and foremost is the fact that the virus is the new UK variant, of which the prime quality is fast spreading. And last but not least, the disease control measures themselves have had limitations to implement.

As having to weigh in likely economic impacts, the government had decided not to impose too strict disease control measures early, the decision which has demonstrated that it may not be the right strategy in dealing with this new variant.

The government hence has turned its eyes on a mass vaccination program as a hopeful means to help curb the virus. What is problematic again is its thinking.

By having to weigh in likely economic impacts, the government has been adjusting its vaccine administration plan almost every day, causing very much frustration among the people. This is particularly troublesome, given the fact that the vaccine supply is currently limited.

Under the early plan, Covid-19 vaccines were set to be given to people based on an epidemiological principle. That meant those likely to susceptible to the disease the most would be among the first to receive the vaccines.

That’s the reason why we saw the government come up with the vaccine administration for authorities working on the front line first, and then the plan for the first two target groups of ordinary people likely to be susceptible to the disease the most; the elderly and those with seven chronic diseases.

The plan was then changed as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wished to see the vaccines administered to as many citizens as possible, and since confusions over the plan have kept rising almost every day.

Walk-in services were introduced before being dropped and replaced by on-site services, and under the latest version, the vaccine distribution would be considered based on the severity of infection in the areas, the economic and tourism needs, and vulnerable groups, according to the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

The latest criterion sounds there is nothing wrong in the first place, given the severity of infection in the areas is still the first and foremost factor taken into account.

But the fact is the challenge brought by the virus today has not decreased any bit, given the fact that it keeps mutating and challenging the whole healthcare system with a more virulent variant.

Thailand has already encountered the UK variant, the Indian variant, and the most concerned variant of South Africa, and this is a very clear signal worth to be noted or borne in mind how the whole society can be easily susceptible to the virus. The government must make sure that it understands the conditions and challenges posed by the virus and its variants deeply and is able to deal with them.

As such, the precautionary or epidemiological principle should be the first and foremost thought and the government should not deviate from this principle when making a decision on how best to distribute the limited amount of the vaccines.

The economy is important but it can still be recovered as long as we are smart enough to adjust ourselves to the changing circumstances. But if the public healthcare system is collapsed because we are too lenient, we would surely pay a much higher price.

That is our people’s lives that we should have helped save in the first place.