PHUKET: Come July 1 Phuket will become a testbed for international tourism not just for Thailand, but for the whole world – and everyone will learn some home truths about COVID-19 and its variants, and how effective baseline vaccination really is.
People enjoy the water at Patong Beach. Photo: Patong Surf Life Saving
Phuket is about to be able to prove firsthand just how effective vaccinations are at preventing transmissions by vaccinated people, just how effective testing is, and just how seriously people will suffer if they become infected after being vaccinated with Sinovac, which according to even the World Health Organization is the worst vaccine in the world at preventing infections, though much better at preventing serious illness and has a very high rate of preventing death.
Looking to the Maldives and Seychelles, both of which Phuket officials have previously held high as examples to follow, both island tourism nations suffered skyrocketing rates of new infections only last month despite being among the highest ranking countries in the world for mass vaccination of their populations at the time.
Both countries used Sinopharm and AstraZeneca for their mass vaccination campaigns.
At the height of the outbreak in the Seychelles, where at the time 57% of the population had been fully vaccinated with Sinopharm – again, which has a better track record of preventing infections than Sinovac – of 2,486 people recorded as infected on one day, 37% had received two doses of vaccine.
In the Maldives, late last month infections surged despite 42% of the population having received two doses of vaccine.
Those examples together do not bode well for Phuket.
That said, infection rates in both countries have already fallen dramatically, and the spike in the number of deaths, while most respectfully not token, was certainly shortlived.
Also on the plus side, it was reported the tourism areas in the Maldives were largely unaffected, though that was mostly attributed yo 97% of hotel and resort staffers having received their first vaccine dose and 56% being fully vaccinated.
As for the testing, it was reported that of all tourism arrivals to the Maldives at the time less than 0.2% tested positive.
Tourism workers in Phuket are obviously on the frontline when it comes to international tourists arriving on the island, and they were amongst the first to start receiving vaccinations after medical workers and other emergency staff, but Phuket officials have not delivered any industry-segment breakdowns when reporting the ongoing mass vaccination campaign on the island. Now might be a good time to do so.
Among the other ominous silences from officials, while all the trumpeting of vaccinations continues the gaping chasm remains in the so-called vaccination policy as to why people in the highest risk age ranges are still unable to choose to be vaccinated at a private medical facility with a vaccine of their choice – paid for out of their own pocket – using a vaccine that has no long been approved by Thai Food & Drug Administration.
Not one person in any official capacity has even recognised this debacle. The situation is so appalling that even Bhummikitti Raktaengam, Phuket’s strongest proponent for getting the island vaccinated, seems to have given up the ghost on the idea.
Perhaps it is simply too embarrassing to admit that people over 60 were always the segment of our community that we were supposed to be protecting from infection, well at least that is what state public awareness campaigns kept repeating all last year.
Now the Thai elderly will have the choice of AstraZeneca or AstraZeneca, as Thai officials trust Sinovac that much. Non-working expats, and especially foreign retirees, still have yet to learn what their options are, while the Tourism Authority of Thailand countdown clock marks 24 days to go.
Intentionally withholding these approved vaccines from the people no longer smells like a commercial decision, it stinks of it.
Source: The Phuket News