Report: UNWC Seminar – COVID-19 Vaccination Explained

Published on: May 12, 2021

Bumps and Babies Coordinator, Emma, summarises the information shared in the recent COVID-19 Vaccine Seminar hosted by the UNWC in Bangkok.

By Emma McNerlin

BAMBI were recently invited to attend a COVID-19 vaccination seminar organized by the UNWC (United Nations Women’s Club) Thailand held on 17 March at the Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20. 

The guest speaker at the conference was Dr. Paul White, the World Health Organization’s leading Epidemiologist in Thailand and a COVID-19 authority in the region.

Dr. White delivered an informative and engaging presentation tracking the Global, Asian, and Thai infection patterns since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in January 2020, as well as reporting much anticipated plans for vaccinations in Thailand.

The key takeaway points from the conference were as follows: 

1. On the whole, Thailand has maintained good control of infection rates of COVID-19 since its emergence, due to swift decisions on controlling international travel with quarantine measures, and a diligent and rigorous track-and-trace system. Despite this, pockets of local infections can be expected to occur for the foreseeable future.

2. The level of population testing in Thailand exceeds the World Health Organization goals. Thailand currently reports a positivity rate of 1.9% of all tests conducted. The WHO benchmark for positivity rates is below 5%. If countries report positivity rates exceeding the benchmark, this is an indication that they are not testing enough asymptomatic people within the community.

3. Viruses mutate in order to survive. Not all mutations pose a danger. To date, there have been three mutations of interest identified. The British variant is more transmissible than the original COVID-19, but vaccines are effective against it. The South African variant is both more transmissible and has a higher mortality rate, and most worryingly, there is also evidence that vaccines provide reduced protection against it. The most recent is the Brazilian/Japanese variant, which, at the time of writing, has just been identified, meaning its impact on infections is not yet known.

4. Thailand has reported cases of both the British and the South African variants. The WHO continues to track variations and their impacts on the global and local response to COVID-19.

5. The Food and Drug Administration of Thailand has granted emergency licenses for the administration of three COVID-19 vaccines: Sinovac (Chinese), AstraZeneca (British), and Johnson & Johnson (American). Applications are pending for others including the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. AstraZeneca vaccinations were briefly stopped in early March due to concerns about side effects and blood clots, but they resumed following analysis of data that showed no significant increased risk.

6. COVID-19 vaccination in Thailand began on 28 February 2021. All vaccines are being procured, distributed, and administered through the Royal Thai Vaccine Programme. There are currently over 1,000 private and public hospitals signed up to the programme, and they are only permitted to vaccinate according to a two-phase schedule:

Phase one is for healthcare workers and vulnerable populations and is due to be completed by the end of May. This will be followed by phase two, which is for the rest of the adult population on the basis of risk. The programme covers everyone resident in Thailand, including foreigners.

7. There are no plans at this stage to offer vaccines for private sale, and all hospitals administering vaccines through the Royal Thai Vaccination Programme must not do so for profit.

8. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers will not be offered a vaccine, nor will children until further studies into safety and efficacy can support their use in these circumstances.

9. As a population, we must remain vigilant against the threat of community infection of COVID-19. We can all help to protect ourselves and those around us by continuing to observe good hand hygiene, mask-wearing, and social distancing, as well as avoiding crowded, public indoor spaces.

BAMBI would like to thank the board of the UNWC for the invitation and Dr. Paul White for the thoughtful and pragmatic presentation. 

Disclaimer: All points presented in this report are correct at the time of writing.  

Photo from Unsplash

About the Author

Emma McNerlin is a UK trained and registered Midwife, First Aid Instructor and owner of Bumpsy Daisy Café and Community. 

The views expressed in the articles in this magazine are not necessarily those of BAMBI committee members and we assume no responsibility for them or their effects.

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