Associate Professor Dr. Nithipat Jiankul, chief of the respiratory disease and tuberculosis department

A senior doctor, at the Internal Medicine Department of the Faculty of Medicine at Mahidol University, has voiced caution over premature reopening of Thailand to foreign arrivals in October, pointing out that vaccination of 50 million Thais, to begin development of herd immunity, should not be the only consideration behind such a decision.

Associate Professor Dr. Nithipat Jiankul, chief of the respiratory disease and tuberculosis department, said that, besides the mass vaccination operation, the decision to open the country must also take into consideration the domestic health system, the national economy and security.

If new daily infections are still at about 3,000, or more than 300 people are in need of ventilators with more than a dozen fatalities each day, he said that it is better for the country to remain closed.

Dr. Nithipat said that, to achieve the goal of inoculating at least 50 million people in Thailand with their first doses of vaccines, in the hope that this will generate a safe level of herd immunity, is just the first step before easing restrictions, as mass vaccinations are not the only prerequisite for the safe opening of the country.

He also pointed out the need for a third booster jab, as a preventive measure against new variants of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Rural Doctor Society has expressed doubt that the goal of reopening the country in 120 days will be attained, as it demanded that the government disclose the operational plans in place to attain the goal.

In its Facebook post today, the society said that the prime minister’s decision was based on the recommendations of the economists, particularly the National Economic and Social Development Council, rather than on those of health officials.

The decisive factor, said the society, is the containment of the pandemic and this can only be done if there are sufficient vaccines, adding that the 10 million doses of AstraZeneca, expected in July, must be received as contracted.

The society said, however, that even the government isn’t sure that it will receive all 10 million doses of AZ vaccine in July, hence the frantic attempts to procure other vaccines, another 28 million doses of Sinovac from China and the Pfizer vaccine for youngsters.

“The prime minister is communicating with the people to give them hope, but that goal may not realised, if there are not sufficient vaccines and if there is an outbreak of new variants,” said the Rural Doctor Society.

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