Thailand began vaccinating Buddhist monks against the coronavirus this week, hoping to build up their protection to enable them to safely perform their spiritual duties.
About 500 monks were inoculated in the capital, Bangkok, on Tuesday and Wednesday, to allow them to receive daily alms and do merit-making activities, as Thailand battles its third and most potent wave of infections.
“These activities are putting them at risk where they can come into contact with an infected person,” said Montchai Chumnumnavin of Bangkok’s Priest Hospital, a medical facility exclusively for monks, where the vaccines were administered.
“The faster we can provide them with vaccines, they will build up immunity to protect them from contracting the disease from devotees.”
After successfully thwarting earlier outbreaks, Thailand is dealing with a more stubborn wave that has seen overall cases nearly quadruple since early April, and deaths increase six-fold. Bangkok is the epicenter.
The country has yet to start its mass immunization drive, with only about 1.5 million people getting a first dose so far, mostly front-line health workers or vulnerable groups.
Thailand is aiming to administer one shot of a coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of its population by September, its health minister said on Wednesday.
The country has been scrambling to secure vaccines from multiple brands.
“We will focus on the first shots of vaccination to meet the target of 70 percent of the population by September,” Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said in a statement.
He reassured the public there would be no need to reserve a second shot as there would be doses available.