Government Changes Vaccine Policy, Extending Interval for AstraZeneca Second Dose

The Thai government has modified the inoculation policy for AstraZeneca vaccines, extending the 10-week interval to a 16-week interval between the first and second doses.

Now, people who have received their first dose of the firm’s vaccine must wait 16 weeks for the second shot.

Officials insist that the modification will have no adverse effect on the immune response against COVID-19. However, the move came after several hospitals reported they had suspended vaccinations with the AstraZeneca vaccine amid a shortage in Thailand, prompting concerns.

According to the permanent secretary for public health, Kiattiphum Wongrajit, the Public Health Ministry has readjusted its vaccine distribution guideline.

Dr. Kiattiphum said the decision was based on Thailand’s changing outbreak situation, explaining that the new approach is to administer the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to as many people as possible. As a result, those scheduled to receive their first vaccination in June will receive their second dose around October.

The government has ordered three million Sinovac vaccines, expected to arrive next month, Dr. Kiattiphum added.

The secretary for public health’s statements came after several hospitals announced that they would not be able to administer the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in time. Chulabhorn Hospital and Vachira Hospital postponed inoculations with AstraZeneca jabs until more supplies arrive.

Rumors that the government was running out of vaccines to meet domestic demand spread across the country after the announcements.

A spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, Rungrueng Kitphati, admitted on Monday that some areas have run out of AstraZeneca’s jabs while others were rapidly depleting as demand for the vaccine increases.

But the ministry would supply vaccines to areas that have reported shortages as best as it could, he added.

The spokesperson urged people to be confident in the nationwide shots rollout, stating that one vaccine dose alone is enough to protect against severe symptoms, new infections, and death. The second dose is just a booster meant to prolong the body’s immune response against the disease, Dr. Rungrueng went on.

Dr. Rungrueng said that people who received one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine were not advised to get a Sinovac vaccine for their second shot.

The government advises the public to complete their vaccination rounds with the same vaccine instead of using second doses of a different vaccine, he said. Despite the government’s decision, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha received his second AstraZeneca dose on Monday, only ten weeks after getting his first shot on March 16.

Gen Prayut asked people to trust the Public Health Ministry’s vaccine information to avoid confusion.

He added that the nation’s vaccine distribution plan could be adjusted according to the pandemic situation in each area. Moreover, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he is confident that AstraZeneca would deliver its vaccines on time in June and confirmed that there would be enough vaccines to inoculate the public once the national rollout starts.