Thailand starts COVID-19 vaccination campaign

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand launched its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Sunday. Cabinet ministers, health officials and medical professionals were among the first in line to receive vaccinations.
The first vaccine doses developed by China's Sinovac Biotech were given to Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also Minister of Health, at an institute for infectious diseases on the outskirts of Bangkok, among other places.
"I hope the vaccination will help keep people safe from the spread of COVID-19 and allow Thailand to return to normal as soon as possible," Anutin told reporters afterwards.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, 66, attended the event even though his age is outside the range of 18 to 59 suitable for receiving the CoronaVac vaccine from SinoVac, so he did not receive it.
Thailand this week received its first 200,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine from China and 117.00 imported doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.
CoronaVac has been distributed to 13 high-risk provinces, which will begin injecting frontline health workers and volunteers from Sunday, the Ministry of Health said.
AstraZeneca's vaccine will be ready for use after passing quality control tests in the second week of March, the company said in a statement.
Thailand is expected to receive an additional 1.8 million doses of CoronaVac in March and April.
A mass campaign to deliver 10 million doses per month is slated to begin in June. 61 million AstraZeneca vaccines are manufactured by the local company Siam Bioscience.
With a total of just over 25,000 infections, Thailand has escaped the aftermath of some other countries since the pandemic started last year.
(Interactive graphic tracking of the worldwide spread of coronavirus:
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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Anutin Charnvirakul
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