THE RURAL Doctor Society complained via Facebook today (June 7) that Covid vaccine situation has reached a point where supplies are overflowing rural hospital refrigerators yet another large lot of 16.8 million doses is being sent despite the fact that the central government could reject additional stocks if need be, Sanook.com said.
In its Facebook post the rural doctors said, “the Public Health Ministry is sending another large batch of 16.8 million vaccines unconcerned about complaints from frontline workers.”
The post added that the Public Health Ministry will definitely be sending this large lot of 16.8 million vaccines but has only changed the location to the provincial repository rather than the rural hospitals.
The deliveries remain the same with Sinovac and AstraZeneca coming first and Pfizer gradually following later.
Provincial authorities have been instructed to clear their refrigerators of these additional vaccines, the post added.
The rural doctors pointed out that Sinovac vaccines are the most problematic because there are still millions of doses left over across the country because no one will touch it. This time the ministry is sending 1.18 million Sinovac vaccine doses to the provinces so that they expire there with all rural hospitals certain no one will agree to get this vaccine jab.
The rural doctors question why the ministry is sending this large amount of vaccines, what are the officials afraid of, what are the transportation charges and why can stocks not expire at the ministry.
The AstraZeneca vaccines coming through are also equally problematic because there is now very low demand for these jabs with rural hospitals already having full supplies. Moreover the new batch is close to expiry.
The rural doctors said they fully understood that in an emergency it is not easy to estimate how much vaccines should be ordered but when what is delivered is not used on time then this has to be accepted and an explanation given to the public without creating trouble at the end of the line.
The Rural Doctor Society would like to inform the public that “Vaccines have a price. If you want to destroy them, you must set up a committee to check the balance and request for destruction. Vaccines are a bio-material and cannot be simply dumped. They must be disposed of in accordance with the principles and there is cost and procedures in doing so.
“This time, it seems the Public Health Ministry is refusing to take responsibility and is passing the buck down the line,” the post said.
However Dr. Wichan Pawan, head of the ministry’s General Communicable Diseases Division, later explained that there is miscommunication about the dispatch of 16.8 million Covid vaccines to provincial hospitals for rural distribution as these hospitals are not facing a problem of overflowing fridges and being turned into vaccine dustbins as claimed.
He explained that even though 81.7% of the population had received their first dose of Covid vaccine, 2 million people over 60 years of age and 2 million more children in the 5-11 age group had not done so.
The number of people having got their first jab in some districts is quite low, totalling less than 60%.
Where booster jabs are concerned, most of the people in provincial cities had received them but in some districts less than 10% had got this jab.
The ministry’s plan is to expedite vaccination according to the set target, he pointed out.
Sending vaccines to hospitals near people’s home is the correct step as it makes it easier for them to come and get the jabs, he said, adding that in giving these rural hospitals their own supplies it makes it easier for them to have access to the vaccines without having to ask the provincial vaccine repository to send them across.
A large lot of Covid vaccines stored at a rural hospital. Photo: Rural Doctor Society