Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Thailand Aims to Boost Vaccines by 50% So It Can Reopen for Tourists

Photographer: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images

Thailand aims to boost its vaccine order by more than 50% to 100 million doses this year in a bid to reach herd immunity, as surging local infections threaten to derail plans to reopen borders to tourism and reboot the economy.

The government plans to buy 35 million more doses from two or three manufacturers with a target to administer them all by the end of 2021, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said a day after chairing a meeting on the country’s new inoculation plan. The National Vaccine Institute is in talks with Pfizer Inc. for as many as 10 million doses, he said Tuesday.

Thailand’s scaling up of vaccination efforts comes as Moody’s Investors Service cautioned that a new wave of Covid-19 cases threatens to further derail an economy that relies on tourism for about a fifth of gross domestic product. Infections have surged more than 60% so far this month, prompting at least two GDP downgrades, while fewer than 1% of Thais have received at least one of two vaccine doses.

“The rollout has been too slow,” Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary general of the Eastern Economic Corridor Office, who attended Tuesday’s meeting with the prime minister, said in an interview.

Thailand has so far relied on Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s shots for its priority sector workers and people at least 60 years. It’s also ordered 61 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc jabs to be locally manufactured by Siam Bioscience Ltd. that will be delivered from June.

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