First Thailand mixed-jabs fatality ‘had underlying ills’

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A vial of Sinovac's CoronaVac vaccine (L) and the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. AFP

A 39-year-old woman who died one day after receiving her second dose of vaccine in the Thai government’s mixed-shot programme had underlying health issues, the Department of Disease Control (DDC) said on July 21.

DDC deputy chief Dr Sophon Iamsirithavorn said the woman, a teacher with high blood pressure and a BMI of 31 – considered obese – received a Sinovac jab on June 28 and then an AstraZeneca jab on July 19. The woman, who was from the western province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, died on July 20.

The 39-year-old was the first person to die after receiving alternate vaccines, which have so far been administered to 84,000 people, Dr Sophon said.

Her body has been sent for autopsy at King Mongkut’s Hospital, with results on the cause of death expected soon.

A total of 14.8 million vaccine doses have been administered in Thailand since vaccinations began in March, as frustration mounts over the slow pace of the rollout.

Approximately 229 deaths after vaccination have been reported, or 16 per one million recipients.

Results from autopsies and panels of investigating experts indicate the deaths were not caused directly by the vaccine but were linked to underlying chronic conditions. The most common of these are coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease.

The risk from vaccination remains tiny compared to the risk of being fatally infected with Covid-19, say health authorities.

Also on July 21, senior health official Dr Nakhon Premsri apologised to the public for failing to provide enough vaccines to combat Thailand’s deepening Covid-19 crisis.

The National Vaccine Institute director admitted that vaccine supplies may be insufficient due to the “unexpected situation” caused by the Delta variant. The country recorded a new daily high of 13,002 infections on July 21 with 108 fatalities.

Dr Nakhon was speaking alongside Department of Medical Sciences chief Dr Supakit Sirilak at a Ministry of Public Health briefing called amid rising public criticism of the government’s vaccine-procurement programme.

Public anger was stirred on July 17 when a leaked letter from AstraZeneca to the Thai government revealed the vaccine manufacturer had promised to supply Thailand with only five-to-six million doses per month. The government had repeatedly claimed AstraZeneca would supply 10 million doses per month for the rest of the year.

Amid a shortage of AstraZeneca doses, the ministry has turned to imports of Sinovac vaccine, but the Chinese-made jabs have performed poorly against the Delta variant.

The letter also revealed that AstraZeneca had advised the Thai government in September to join the Covax vaccine-sharing programme. Thailand is one of only a few developing nations that have not joined Covax.

Dr Nakhon revealed that the government was now negotiating to obtain vaccines through Covax.

He added that the institute was also pushing to procure second-generation vaccines as booster shots against Delta variant in the first quarter of next year. Advance booking for the shots would be necessary, he said.

Dr Supakit, meanwhile, said he understood the frustration of people who are still waiting to be vaccinated but insisted that the health ministry’s efforts are transparent and verifiable.

Addressing controversy over allocation of doses, he explained that the National Vaccine Committee and various other panels were tasked with screening orders for vaccine from various agencies.