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Leaked memo raises Thai concern about Sinovac vaccine's efficacy

Leaked memo raises Thai concern about Sinovac vaccine's efficacy
Bottles of the Sinovac vaccine are seen.
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK - A leaked Health Ministry memo has prompted calls in Thailand for medical staff inoculated against Covid-19 to be given a booster of an mRNA vaccine, after it included a comment that such a move could dent public confidence in Sinovac Biotech's vaccine.

The internal memo, which included various opinions, was reported by local media and shared widely on social media. It was confirmed by Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul as being authentic.

It included a comment from an official who recommended the authorities do not give a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine to front-line health workers, because such a move would be "admitting that the Sinovac vaccine is not effective".

Thailand has administered Sinovac's inactivated virus vaccine to most health workers, and its real-world study showed two doses were 95 per cent effective in reducing mortality and severe symptoms. The study showed it was 71 per cent to 91 per cent effective in stopping infection of the Alpha variant.

ALSO READ: Thailand starts long awaited Covid-19 vaccination drive

The comment in the leaked document prompted calls from prominent Thai health experts, including a top medical council official, to give health workers a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot.

The hashtag "Give Pfizer to medical personnel" was trending on Thai Twitter with more than 624,000 tweets yesterday.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will isolate at home for a week. He came into close contact with a person who later tested positive during events held to mark the reopening of Phuket to vaccinated foreign tourists. 

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