A deadly outbreak of COVID-19 cases is currently hampering vaccination efforts in Thailand, which had just kicked into high gear last week.
As of late 2020, health officials in Thailand have only recorded fewer than 5,000 total coronavirus cases. However, the case numbers exploded Monday when officials reported 3,355 new transmissions and 17 COVID-19 deaths. On Tuesday morning, the Public Health Ministry reported an additional 3,000 new cases and 19 deaths, according to the Bangkok Post.
Thailand has now reported 202,264 total COVID-19 cases and 1,485 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Thai health officials have just announced the government's national vaccine rollout last week, kicking it off with a ceremony at Bangkok's Bang Sue Grand Station. The government will distribute locally produced AstraZeneca shots, in partnership with Siam Bioscience-a pharmaceutical firm without any prior experience in manufacturing vaccines.
Earlier this year, an opposition politician questioned how Siam Bioscience got the contract despite having no prior experience manufacturing. He was later charged with "wronging the monarch" for criticizing the company.
In Thailand, the kingdom holds a strict rule against criticizing the royals. As Siam Bioscience is controlled by the king, it is covered by the rules.
Only 3% of the entire population has been vaccinated on Monday, and the program has already faced massive hurdles amid the surge in COVID-19 cases, according to The Thaiger.
On Sunday night, private and public hospitals in Bangkok announced it would cancel previously confirmed appointments. While the hospitals did not give any reason, many suspect it is because of a mass shortage of locally-made vaccines.
"If you have any questions about this (postponement), please contact our call centre or contact the public health minister (directly) and ask why this lack of readiness has occurred," one Bangkok hospital said on social media, as reported by The Thaiger.
The Thai government later deflected the issue and pointed to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration who blamed the Health Ministry.
Kiattiphum Wongrachit, an official from the Thai health department, said the country has received fewer than expected vaccine doses this month. That forced hospitals to cancel vaccine appointments made by the elderly and people suffering from underlying medical conditions.
The Health Ministry later countered the statement, saying they had sent out doses they promised to local authorities, who are then responsible for distributing the said doses. Vaccines for at least 50 million people have also been secured, the agency said Monday.
However, Aswin Kwanmuang, the governor of Bangkok, later announced the suspension of mass vaccinations in the capital on June 15 due to "technical difficulties," and said they will continue the campaign once the shots are secured.
"Bangkok will stop the vaccinations and will resume the inoculations as soon as we receive the vaccines," Kwanmuang said, according to the New York Times.
On Monday, as factories and prisons in the capital struggled with outbreaks of COVID-19 cases, officials announced they would lift restrictions and allow parks, museums and tattoo parlors to resume operations.