Thailand is considering Western booster shots after 600 healthcare workers given Chinese vaccines caught COVID-19

A woman wearing glasses, a mask and a face shield administers a doses of Sinovac Coronavac vaccine to another woman, blurred, in the foreground, who is also wearing a mask, in Thailand in May, 2021.
A health worker inoculates a woman with the Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 23.

  • Thailand is considering switching from a Chinese to Western vaccine to protect healthcare staff.
  • The country is considering giving AstraZeneca doses to those already vaccinated with Sinovac.
  • It came after 600 vaccinated staff caught COVID-19, adding to questions surrounding Chinese jabs.
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Officials in Thailand appear to be losing confidence in the Chinese-made vaccine it gave its healthcare workers, recommending that they receive booster shots of the AstraZeneca jab.

The recommendation came on Monday from the nation’s National Communicable Disease Committee. It was made after more than 600 medical personnel contracted COVID-19 despite having two doses of the Sinovac jab.

The decision is one of several taken recently to move away from Sinovac, and comes as the vaccine’s effectiveness is being questioned more broadly.

Indonesia on Friday announced it would give a Moderna shot to health workers who were fully vaccinated with Sinovac.

It followed Bahrain and the UAE also offering a third shot to people who took Sinovac initially.

According to data from the Thai Health Ministry released on Saturday, 677,348 Thai medical personnel got two doses of Sinovac vaccine between April and July 10.

Of those, 618 were infected with the coronavirus, in spite of being fully vaccinated.

The majority of those – 597 of 618 – either had no symptoms or only a mild form of COVID-19. Nineteen contracted a moderate form of the disease, the figures said.

One nurse died, and another health worker was described as being in critical condition.

Last month, Indonesia reported that more than 350 health workers that were fully vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine got COVID-19, and that dozens of them had been hospitalized.

Ten Indonesian doctors who died of COVID-19 in June had been fully vaccinated, the Guardian reported.

The news comes as Thailand is imposing lockdown-like measures to contain its deadliest COVID-19 outbreak to date, which is fueled by the Delta variant, Al Jazeera News reported on Monday.

Questions remain about the vaccine’s efficacy, especially against the Delta variant

Whether the Chinese vaccines can protect against the Delta variant has been questioned in several news outlets, including Insider, after highly vaccinated countries relying on these vaccines saw surges in cases.

The efficacy of the vaccine is not clear, as different trials have produced different results.

Data from a Turkish trial, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet on Thursday, found the vaccine to have 83.5% efficacy against symptomatic infection.

This trial took place when the Alpha variant, first seen in the UK, was dominant in Turkey.

Real-world data from Indonesia, which monitored about 128,000 vaccinated healthcare workers between January and March found the vaccine was a lot more protective: 94% protection against infection and 96% effective at preventing hospitalization.

This was before the Delta variant, which is more resistant to vaccines, was in the country.

A less positive trial, this time in Brazil, puts Sinovac’s efficacy at about 50%, at a time when another variant, Zeta, was dominant in the country.

China is investigating the efficacy of its shots against the more contagious Delta variant, the Wall Street Journal reported on July 9.

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US senators call for vaccinating Americans who are living abroad

Vaccine
Registered Nurse Robert Orallo administers the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at the Blood Bank of Alaska in Anchorage on March 19, 2021.

  • Lawmakers want to make COVID-19 vaccines available to Americans living abroad.
  • Nearly 9 million US citizens live outside the United States.
  • But this week a US diplomat said the State Department is “unable to provide vaccines.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The United States is nearing President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of adults against COVID-19 by July 4. Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the administration to help make vaccines available to the as many as 9 million Americans living abroad.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, two dozen US senators call for making COVID-19 vaccines available at embassies and consulates overseas.

“While Americans abroad are eligible to receive vaccines in some countries, in others, Americans are ineligible as non-citizens,” the senators wrote. “Should Americans living abroad wish to travel to the US to receive the vaccine, the financial burden of travel as well as lengthy quarantine requirements upon return to their host country may be prohibitive.”

Accordingly, the senators wrote, “millions of Americans abroad worry they may not have access to a vaccine for months or even years.”

The senators’ appeal was led by Sens. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas. It comes after two former US ambassadors, Michael George DeSombre and Scott Brown – the latter also a former Republican US senator – argued in The Wall Street Journal it would be relatively easy to inoculate US expats.

These embassies have already received vaccines for those who work there. But they also maintain “a list of Americans who have registered their contact details, and unregistered Americans could easily be reached through the American communities in each country,” the former ambassadors wrote. “All that would be required to administer vaccines in an orderly manner to Americans overseas would be to create an online sign-up system.”

Organizations representing US citizens abroad have also appealed to the State Department to provide vaccines. But, as Reuters reported Wednesday, a request to make Thailand a pilot project for such a campaign has thus far been rejected.

In a message posted to the US Embassy in Thailand’s website, Americans in the country were told the State Department “is unable to provide vaccines to the millions of Americans who reside outside of the United States.” Instead, US diplomat Michael G. Hearh said the embassy would work with the local government to ensure all are vaccinated “without regard to nationality.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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The Ukrainian ambassador to Thailand died suddenly while vacationing with his son

Koh Lippe
This photograph taken on December 19, 2020 shows longtail boats moored at a beach on Koh Lipe island in the Andaman Sea.

  • Andrii Beshta, the Ukrainian ambassador to Thailand, died suddenly Sunday.
  • Beshta, 45, died while vacationing with his soon in Koh Lipe, an island in Thailand.
  • A police spokesperson said that there were no signs he was attacked.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Andrii Beshta, the Ukrainian ambassador to Thailand, died suddenly early Sunday while vacationing with his son in the Thai island of Koh Lipe.

Beshta, 45, was found dead in his hotel room at 5:30 a.m. local time. He was appointed as the Ukrainian ambassador to Thailand in 2016, according to the Agence France-Presse. He first began working in Thailand in 2007 as a diplomat, the report said.

Beshta’s son, Ostap, who was traveling with him, told authorities his father had gone to bed around 11 p.m. Saturday but woke up around 4:30 a.m. Sunday and began to vomit before he fell unconscious.

Beshta and his son had arrived at the Koh Lipe resort hotel for a vacation on Friday, according to the Bangkok Post.

“Preliminary investigations showed no signs of him being attacked, no signs of a raid or violence,” said Kissana Phathanacharoen, a police spokesperson, according to multiple reports.

According to Satun governor Ekkarat Leesen, a preliminary autopsy conducted at the Satun Hospital where his body was transported early Sunday found he died of a heart attack. Ekkarat said Beshta tested negative for COVID-19 and the disease was not involved in his death, according to the report.

Beshta’s body was transported to the Police General Hospital for a complete autopsy, the Bangkok Post reported.

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Thailand’s prime minister got an AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot in public, hoping to boost confidence after more than a dozen countries paused its use

prayuth chan-ocha thailand prime minister astrazeneca vaccine
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha receives an injection of the AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, March 16, 2021.

  • Thailand’s prime minister became the first in the country to get the AstraZeneca vaccine Tuesday.
  • The country was going to start using the jab on Friday, but ended up waiting.
  • Numerous countries have paused their rollouts, but WHO has urged them to continue.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Thailand’s prime minister has taken a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, hoping to boost public confidence as more than a dozen other countries paused using the vaccine.

On Tuesday, Thai Prime Minster Prayuth Chan-ocha became the first person in the country to get the shot, Reuters reported.

“Today I’m boosting confidence for the general public,” the leader told assembled press. According to Reuters, he later said he felt fine.

The country had suspended the vaccine’s rollout on Friday, the first Asian country to do so.

Nations around the world have been suspending use of the vaccine to investigate whether there is a link between the jab and people developing blood clots.

AstraZeneca, and some health authorities, have argued strongly that there is no proof for such a link.

Nonetheless, by Tuesday a total of 16 countries had paused the rollout as a precautionary measure, as Insider’s Dr Catherine Schuster-Bruce and Grace Dean reported.

The source of the concern is cases in Denmark and Austria of people developing blood clots, or having blood coagulation problems, after having received the vaccine.

After a review of data, AstraZeneca said on Sunday that there is currently no evidence linking the vaccine to the blood clotting, and that the incidence of blood clots was lower than would be expected to occur naturally, Al-Jazeera reported.

This got the backing of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency, according to the outlet.

The same day, the WHO urged the continued use of the vaccine, saying it had not found a link between it and the blood clots. Experts have said that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any risks.

These endorsements are what prompted Thailand to re-join the vaccine’s rollout, and alongside Prime Minister Chan-ocha another 15 cabinet members were also vaccinated Tuesday, Al-Jazeera reported.

The country plans to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine locally, and aims to start a mass vaccination drive in June when production is in full swing, the outlet reported.

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