As vaccinations around the country lag behind targets, questions are being asked about queue-jumping in Nakhon Ratchasima, Bangkok and Samut Prakan.
A list showing 31 names of those alleged to be the VIPs who received the vaccination at Suranaree University of Technology Hospital. 2 names in the square hold an army and a police title.
On 14 June, a source told Prachatai that a group of about 30 people received their first Sinovac vaccination at Suranaree University of Technology Hospital (SUTH) on 21 May, a day when scarce vaccines were provided only to university staff.
The source also said the group were from neither the university nor hospital. Some had well-known surnames of families closely connected with the board members of the hospital and politicians in the governing Palang Pracharat Party, 6 of whose MPs were elected from the province. Some have the rank of general and police major colonel.
SUTH Director Dr Niwatchai Namvichaisirikul responded to the allegations, insisting that there has been no VIP jabs. The hospital had just started a public vaccination campaign along with other hospitals on 7 June, following Ministry of Public Health policy, using the AstraZeneca vaccine.
When asked if SUTH had conducted public vaccinations before 7 June using the Sinovac vaccine, Niwatchai said SUTH followed the public vaccination programme of Maharat Nakhon Ratchasima Hospital which had been operating for almost 2 months. Due to the scarce quantities distributed, SUTH at that time vaccinated only those who are either at risk of infection or hospital workers.
“We received quite a small vaccine allocation. We did not open for the general public to come and be vaccinated all the time. We opened on the day when we had the vaccines that we were allocated,” said Niwatchai.
A Public Relations officer from Maharat Nakhon Ratchasima Hospital informed Prachatai that the hospital had carried out public vaccinations on 19 May at Central Plaza Nakhon Ratchasima. Prior to that date, only hospital staff were given the vaccine. The hospital also did not give vaccines to patients at the field hospital.
VIPs ahead in the delayed rollout
The VIP issue is just one of the problems that have emerged out of the current vaccine scarcity. As of 15 June, 6,511,184 people had received at least one dose, about 10 percent of the population. On 7 June, the government started its plan to have 70 percent of the population, about 50 million people, injected by the end of the year in order to create herd immunity.
Due to a lack of vaccines and delayed deliveries, the vaccination campaign was postponed in many places.
On 9 June, Khaosod Online reported that people who were waiting in line for vaccinations at Bang Pu Subdistrict, Samut Prakan Province, saw a group of people jumping the queue and receiving the vaccine before them. The crowd responded in anger, some by sarcastic clapping.
Charin Chanthaphan, Director of Bang Pu Mai Subdistrict Health Promoting Hospital, announced that those who jumped the queue were from agencies who came for vaccinations before returning to their duties. He avoided answering who these groups of people were.
On 8 June, Matichon Online reported that a group of people disguised themselves as motorcycle taxi riders in order to receive the vaccine at Bang Sue Central Train Station. An investigation later found that these people were family members or associates of the riders.
Chalerm Changthongmadun, President of the Motorcycle Taxi Drivers Association of Thailand, testified that the incident was a misunderstanding by the riders who thought that they could bring along their families to receive the vaccination due to the risk of infection from living with the riders.
A column published in the Manager Online on 9 June revealed a secret rungrueang (prosperity) code used by people of high status to receive a vaccination without prior registration at Srithanya Hospital in Bangkok.
So far, only Sinovac and AstraZeneca have been used in vaccinations in Thailand. The Chulabhorn Royal Academy has scheduled vaccinations with the Sinopharm vaccine to begin on 25 June, with almost 7,000 organizations registered on 14 June, the first day of registration. Any future imports of the Moderna, Pfizer and J&J vaccines will go through the Government Pharmaceutical Organization.