The slow pace of vaccination against the coronavirus disease in Thailand has affected the work of Catholic missionaries in the country’s poor areas.
A Catholic missionary in Chiang Mai said that the lack of COVID-19 vaccines slowed down help for refugees from Myanmar who cross into the country.
Fidei Donum missionary priest Ferdinando Pistore told church news agency Fides that missionaries were not able to personally meet the refugees who arrived in the province of Lamphun.
He said social workers have been asking for the church’s collaboration.
“The situation of the Burmese is particularly touching because most of the Catholics who attend our parish are Burmese immigrants,” said the priest.
He said the refugees are particularly experiencing “anguish about the situation of their families and friends at home.”
Father Pistore said the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in Thailand is “extremely slow” and the situation is “difficult to predict.”
“After Easter there was a third wave and we had to suspend (face-to-face) Masses and all parish activities,” he said.
On Saturday, May 8, Thailand announced that it is expecting to offer the Moderna vaccine to most of its population soon as it steps up the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
The latest drive comes amid growing public criticism of the slow rollout of free vaccinations offered by the government, which stands at 1.73 million shots so far — less than one percent of its population.
Health authorities have yet to start mass vaccinations even as the tourism-reliant country struggles with a third wave of infections.
The government expects 61 million shots of AstraZeneca to be produced locally from June. But these vaccinations and those from Moderna will not be offered free.
Moderna last month applied for vaccine registration in Thailand, which should be approved soon, said Withoon Danwiboon, head of the Government Pharmaceutical Organization.
“What we expect from Moderna is its commitment on how soon they will bring in their vaccine,” he said.
Thailand has so far approved the vaccines of Sinovac Biotech, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thailand would try to secure more vaccines, on top of existing orders of about 65 million.
“Our current target is for 100 million doses of vaccines, but Thailand should have 150 million doses or more,” he posted on his Facebook page on Saturday.
Thailand’s latest outbreak has been exacerbated by the highly transmissible UK coronavirus B.1.1.7 variant, leading to more than 52,000 infections and 288 fatalities in just over five weeks.
On Saturday, 2,419 new coronavirus cases were reported, with 19 new deaths. – with a report from Reuters