Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul comforts a boy receiving his first shot of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for youngsters at Phra Nang Klao Hospital in Nonthaburi on Oct 12, the day the campaign was launched. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)
A heavily promoted campaign offering free Covid-19 vaccinations for children is getting a slow response, with parents showing reluctance.
Data from the Immunisation Centre of the Public Health Ministry showed 6,004 children aged six months to four years old had been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine in the vial with the red cap from Oct 12 to Friday last week.
The centre said 3,285 children, about 55% of the total, were vaccinated in Bangkok, followed by only 725 children living under the supervision of the Public Health Region 6 Office, which covers Sa Keo, Prachin Buri, Chachoengsao, Samut Prakan, Chon Buri, Chanthaburi, Rayong and Trat provinces.
Vaccination of small children was least popular in the northeastern region, especially the Public Health Region 8 office, which had only 19 children getting first shots. Region 8 encompasses Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Loei, Nong Khai, Nong Bua Lam Phu and Bung Kan provinces
The statistics were tracked from the launch date of the vaccination campaign for children on Oct 12 and the information was posted on the Facebook of the Rural Doctors Society on Monday.
The ministry has ordered three million doses of Pfizer vaccine for this group. One million have already been delivered and half of them sent out to public health offices nationwide. The rest will arrive by year’s end.
Thailand is the first country in Southeast Asia targeting this young group for vaccination.
“The vaccine is effective, up to standard and safe. Parents can register for their children to get the shots, or take them to centres on a voluntary basis,” Public Health Minster Anutin Chanvirakul said when launching the campaign at Phra Nang Klao Hospital in Nonthaburi province on Oct 12.
The National Statistics Office did not provide the exact number of children in the six months to four years age bracket, but the number of doses ordered by the ministry, three million, could be an indication.
Tares Krassanairawiwong, acting director-general of the Department of Disease Control, on Monday expressed hope that more parents would bring their children in for the free jabs, saying it would help protect them against the virus.
The Rural Doctors Society called the situation “worrisome” after seeing the small number of vaccinated children three weeks into the campaign.
It said parents were reluctant to take their young children in for the vaccine because of concerns about side effects. The successful containment of the virus could be a factor in their choosing to ignore the campaign, the statement said.
The society said the ministry now faced a problem. The purchased vaccine would expire in six to nine months if not used.
“This is another challenge for the Public Health Ministry, and a headache,” it said.
The shelf life of the Pfizer vaccine is six to nine months, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.