Thailand Authorizes Giving AstraZeneca COVID Vaccine Booster to Those Given Chinese Shot

Thailand authorized giving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine booster to those who received China's Sinovac shot, health officials announced Monday.

The authorization was agreed upon by the National Committee on Communicable Diseases to give booster shots to front-line medical workers who received two Sinovac shots after a nurse died Saturday from COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated with Sinovac in May, the Associated Press reported. Thailand's Health Ministry announced Sunday that 618 of 677,348 medical workers fully vaccinated with Sinovac have tested positive for COVID-19.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said other citizens that received one dose of Sinovac can get AstraZeneca as their second dose.

The announcement comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Southeast Asian nation since April due to the more contagious delta variant first found in India. New lockdown restrictions took effect Monday for the Thai capital of Bangkok and a few other provinces, including a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. as the country reported 8,656 new infections and 80 deaths.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

People Wait for Vaccine in Thailand
Thailand authorized giving AstraZeneca to those who received China's Sinovac shot. In this photo, people queue as they wait to receive doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine at the Kalayani Watthanakarun Hospital compound in the southern province of Narathiwat in Thailand on July 9, 2021. Madaree Tohlala/AFP via Getty Images

Thailand's total cases and deaths since the pandemic began last year are now at 345,027 confirmed cases and 2,791 deaths. More than 90 percent of the cases and 95 percent of the deaths have occurred since early April.

Most cases are in Bangkok and nearby provinces and in the country's four southernmost provinces. The sharp rise in cases has caused a severe shortage of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, prompting the authorities to allow patients to isolate at home and in community centers.

The head of the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Center, Dr. Thiravat Hemachudha, said last week that a study he helped conduct found that Sinovac was less effective at fighting the delta variant and that a booster dose of AstraZeneca would boost its efficacy, while two doses of AstraZeneca instead was even better.

Another health worker is hospitalized in critical condition.

The country has administered around 12.57 million vaccine doses, with 9.3 million people, just over 13 percent of the population, receiving at least one dose. The government has targeted administering 100 million doses to 50 million people by the end of this year.

Thailand produces AstraZeneca locally but not enough to meet demand, and will continue importing Sinovac. A donation of 1.05 million doses of AstraZeneca from the Japanese government that arrived Friday will be used in part to provide the booster doses for medical personnel.

Under the new coronavirus measures, shopping centers in the greater Bangkok area will be closed except for supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, takeout food, cellphone sales and repair and vaccination centers, all of which must close by 8 p.m. Restaurants have already been limited to takeout service since June 28. Schools in the region will be closed, with only online learning allowed.

Convenience stores must close from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., and beauty salons and massage parlors must shut entirely. Public transport will stop running from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., the same hours as the curfew, and working from home is strongly encouraged.

The measures will be reviewed after two weeks.

COVID-19 Victim in Thailand
Siam Nonthaburi Foundation volunteers in full protective suits carrying coffin with a COVID-19 victim for a free funeral ceremony service at Wat Ratprakongtham temple Nonthaburi Province, Thailand, Monday, July 12, 2021. Sakchai Lalit/AP Photo