In a Facebook post on Saturday, expert virologist Dr Yong Poovorawan said Chulalongkorn University’s Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology is seeking volunteers who have already received two AstraZeneca jabs.
The centre will provide a third AstraZeneca jab to the volunteers and test their immunity 14 days and 28 days later to see how this compares to other boosters.
“If the volunteers’ immunity does not rise [after the booster is administered] the centre is ready to provide a fourth jab if the volunteers want,” he said.
To be eligible, volunteers must be:
• Above 18 years of age and healthy
• Not medical staff
• Never infected by Covid-19
• Received two jabs of AstraZeneca with the second jab between June 30 and August 29 last year.
A reported cocktail of the Omicron and Delta variants, called “Deltacron”, was only a Delta sample contaminated with Omicron, Public Health Committee vice president Dr Chalermchai Boonyaleepun wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
Earlier, an international news agency reported that a scientist in Cyprus had discovered the so-called Deltacron.
However, GISAID had completed a genome sequencing of 24 samples from Cyprus and found that most genes were actually the Delta variant, with only two Omicron spike proteins – A67V and 69-70 Del. Both of them were found in the 24 samples but Delta’s genes were different.
Chalermchai believed that GISAID’s sequencing was “correct”, concluding that the sample was not a new variant but the Delta variant itself. It was likely to have been contaminated.
The World Health Organisation and a British virologist were also of the opinion that a “technical problem” could have been the cause of the “contamination”.
Chalermchai said matter of factly that this spelt the end of the Deltacron discussion.
From January 2022, the “Mor Prom” app is now available to foreigners residing in Thailand as long as they have received at least one dose of a recognised COVID vaccine. The app enables them to view their vaccine history and related information and it can be downloaded on App Store or Playstore.
In Thailand, the “Digital Health Pass” can be used as confirmation of vaccine status, when visiting shopping malls, restaurants, movie theatres, fitness centres, gyms, sports stadia, or other popular places.
Moreover, for those planning to travel in Europe this year, European Union (“EU”) has certified the Thailand Digital Health Pass (“Mor Prom”) as equivalent to the EU Digital COVID19 Clearance Certificate, enabling it to be used for travel to and within the 27 member states of the European Union and over 30 other countries and territories outside the EU which recognize the EU certificate. Thailand is the second ASEAN country whose digital health pass has been recognised in this way by the EU.
Recognised vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), include Comirnaty (BioNTech and Pfizer), Nuvaxovid (Novavax), Spikevax (Moderna), Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), and COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen, although other vaccines are under review and individual EU countries have sanctioned the recognition of Sinovac and Sinopharm, as have non-EU states such as the UK, where the EU Digital Certificate is accepted.
When you first use the application, your 13 digit number and your mobile phone number are required for registration.
“Pink Card” or “Social Securities card” holders will have 13 digit number but those numbers will not be registered in the MOPH immunization center until you have received your first covid-19 vaccine.
Those who are not registered for Social Security will not be able to register, and should contact the hospital or vaccination site where the vaccine was administered in order to receive a 13 digit number. To register on the “Mor Prom” application, you will receive a one-time passcode or OTP to complete your security check, after which it is ready to use.
Vaccine passport turns digital
International Vaccination Certificates or “Vaccine passports”, are available via app by submitting a request through the’ International Vaccination Certificate’ button. You can them monitor the status of this request. Once confirmed, there are 3 options for delivery of the certification:-
– Collect in person – Postal Delivery – E-Vaccine Passport (QR Code)
COVID-19 vaccination documentation represents an important step towards the resumption of international travel. If you’re at all unsure about this or any aspect of travel from or to Thailand, please email US to get our advice the best solution for you and more details on how to proceed.
It is necessary to administer the first two doses of vaccines and follow up with the third dose for higher and longer immunity, virologist Yong Poovorawan posted on his Facebook on Wednesday.
He suggested administering the Pfizer vaccine as the booster dose.
Yong said that the total number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered nationwide was about 110 million doses, which are high, while 10 billion doses have been injected worldwide.
He said there were some patients with or without symptoms, so there was some immunity. Though it might not protect completely against the Omicron variant, it will be one of the factors to reduce the severity of the symptoms, he said.
Thailand has administered many formulas of vaccines with also different booster vaccines and this strategy was accepted by international journals, he said in the post. Sinovac, Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Astrazeneca, and Pfizer are the vaccine formulas tried in Thailand.
He suggested that Pfizer vaccines were good to boost the immunity of every formula. He claimed that the immunity from inactivated vaccines was not much different from viral vector vaccines, or mRNA vaccines, after it was boosted with Pfizer.
He said he had studied the surrogate Virus Neutralization Test against the Wuhan, Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omicron variants. He had also studied the focus reduction neutralization test with the Delta and Omicron variants.
He believes Thailand is moving in the right direction as the results are being written for publication in an international journal.
Omicron is fast becoming the dominant Covid-19 variant in Thailand instead of Delta, expert virologist Dr Yong Poovorawan wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
He pointed out that it took Delta two to three months to replace Alpha as the dominant strain, but it took only a month for Omicron to take over from Delta.
He explained that most Omicron cases were found among foreigners in December before it spread among locals in January. He was citing a study conducted by Chulalongkorn University’s Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology.
“Omicron will become the dominant strain in Thailand this month based on the principles of evolution,” he said.
Dr Chalermchai Boonyaleephan
Dr Chalermchai Boonyaleephan, vice-chair of the Public Health Commission, agreed that Omicron was taking over as it has infected 97.1 per cent of patients in the country. Only 2.8 per cent have been infected with Delta, he said, citing a study conducted by Ramathibodi Hospital’s Centre for Medical Genomics from January 3 to 16.
He added that the number of Omicron patients would continue to rise gradually in Thailand and hit a peak in three months before falling.
“I hope there is no new Covid-19 variant that spreads faster than Omicron in the future,” he said.
Thailand currently faces the beginning of a potential fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, the coronavirus has killed over 21,000 people in Thailand.
Exacerbating the crisis, Thailand is also still facing another epidemic that kills over 1,000 people every day: noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). The main NCDs—cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases—kill some 400,000 people in Thailand every year. About half of these deaths are premature (occurring at the ages of 30-70). The good news is that most of these premature deaths are preventable.
NCDs place an enormous burden on the Thai economy and society. Ever-present and far deadlier than Covid-19, they have not been given attention commensurate with their devastating impact. Thailand’s response to Covid-19 has shown how prioritising a major public health crisis can save lives. The government created new institutional mechanisms to coordinate the Covid-19 response at the highest level, empowered policymakers, and made money available. But what about the NCDs that account for three out of four deaths, year after year?
NCDs are associated with increased globalisation and consumerism, aggressive marketing of unhealthy foods, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco products, a lack of physical activity, air pollution, and ageing societies. Thailand is more vulnerable than its neighbours. It has the highest level of alcohol use in the WHO South-East Asia region (twice the regional average). Salt and sugar intake are two and four times, respectively, the WHO-recommended amount. Smoking remains the leading cause of disease and death. Nine out of ten youths are not getting enough exercise (at least 150-300 minutes per week). The prevalence of obesity is the second highest in Asia—some 42 per cent of Thais are overweight.
These behavioural and metabolic risks have been further accentuated due to increased consumption of fast food, physical inactivity and disruption to health promotion services during the Covid-19 epidemic. Thailand’s “super-ageing” society will push up further the prevalence of NCDs. By 2040, one in four Thais will be over 65 (compared with one in eight presently).
Reducing the burden of NCDs is vital to people’s health and Thailand’s future. The annual economic losses from NCDs are estimated to be THB1.6 trillion (US$473 billion), or 9.7 per cent of GDP. The rising cost of treating NCDs threatens the sustainability of Thailand’s highly successful Universal Health Coverage System (NCDs already gobble up half of its budget). NCDs also place a major burden on the business sector. Every day, some 74,000 Thais are absent from work because of an NCD. Lastly, NCDs make people vulnerable: nearly 90 per cent of people who have died of Covid-19 in Thailand were elderly or had an underlying chronic disease, often an NCD.
The government has taken various measures to tackle the unfolding NCD epidemic. It has launched national plans for the prevention and control of NCDs (2017-2021) and the promotion of physical activity (2018–2030). The Thai Health Promotion Foundation (ThaiHealth), funded by a 2 per cent surcharge on alcohol and tobacco excise taxes since 2001, plays a central role in health promotion. Cigarette packs are sold in plain packaging and carry large graphic health warnings. In 2017, the government introduced a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages; a tax on salt is in the works.
But much more needs to be done if Thailand is to reduce by one-third premature deaths from NCDs by 2030—one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. To support further NCD action in Thailand, the United Nations in Thailand in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health recently conducted an economic analysis of the cost of NCDs and the return on NCD investment.
The results show that a targeted investment of THB211 billion (US$6.2 billion) in the areas of salt reduction, tobacco and alcohol control and physical activity would save 310,000 lives and generate economic benefits worth THB430 billion over fifteen years. In short, the case for investing in NCD prevention and treatment is overwhelming.
While most NCDs are related to unhealthy behaviours—tobacco and alcohol use, too much salt, sugar, and fats, and too little physical activity—these are deeply shaped by underlying commercial and social determinants. Behaviour change therefore requires an enabling environment that makes adopting a healthy lifestyle an easy choice.
A mix of better enforcement of existing laws, policies to promote exercise and nutritious food, and measures that put public health above commercial interests are needed. Fiscal and regulatory measures aimed at reducing tobacco and alcohol use and salt and sugar intake will remain instrumental tools. Equally vital are improvements in early detection and interventions against NCDs at the primary health care level. Going forward, the private sector will have to play a bigger role in combatting NCDs and shaping healthier lifestyles.
The illnesses rooted in underlying social and commercial factors and rapidly changing lifestyles will not go away. But change is possible. Countries like Finland, where policies for health promotion and early detection and treatment of NCDs have led to a significant drop in mortality, have shown the way.
The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that minimizing a major public health threat requires individual action, a coordinated response from all sectors of government and society, and decisive political leadership.
If Thailand was able to rapidly respond to and control the Covid-19 epidemic, it surely can do the same with a threat that causes more deaths and damage to the economy.
By Dr Jos Vandelaer, WHO Representative and Mr Renaud Meyer, Resident Representative, UNDP Thailand
People given two jabs of Sinovac followed by a booster of AstraZeneca or Pfizer had high protection against the Omicron variant, renowned virologist Dr Yong Poovorawan said on Saturday.
Reporting findings from recent studies, Dr Yong said people who had two shots of inactivated Sinovac followed by a booster of viral-vector AstraZeneca increased their immunity 100 times, or 200 after the mRNA Pfizer booster.
Both booster shots also triggered a big increase in “killer” T cells, which are thought to be especially effective in combating heavily mutated Covid-19 variants such as Omicron.
Yong cited studies on the medRxiv internet site, which pre-publishes scientific data and research ahead of the peer review process.
He pointed to data from researchers in Europe and China studying the effects of Sinovac jabs followed by mRNA boosters.
Yong heads the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, which expects to publish its own research results on combating Omicron in Thailand next week.
Thai traditional medicine practitioners rolled out a mobile unit to treat Covid-19 cases on Friday, adding another weapon in the country’s battle against Omicron.
The Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine is also educating practitioners nationwide as to which Thai traditional herbs can be used to treat Covid-19, its director-general Dr Yongyot Thammavudhi said on Friday.
He was speaking at an event dubbed “Thai traditional medicine unites to fight the danger of Covid-19”, which also covered ways to treat people suffering “long Covid”.
Dr Yongyot said his department had a two-pronged strategy for the battle against Thailand’s new wave of Covid-19, driven by the Omicron variant.
First, it is standardising traditional-medical care nationwide by transferring knowledge of practices and herbal treatments for Covid-19 and its long-term effects to practitioners in the public and private sphere.
Second, it is launching a mobile Thai traditional medical unit to treat patients in metropolitan Bangkok.
The department urged the public to get in touch with community leaders to learn more about how the mobile unit will operate.
The Public Health Ministry is working with the department and other Thai traditional medicine partners to ensure that all Covid-19 sufferers had access to high-quality traditional medicine, said Deputy Minister Satit Pitutecha.
“This is another way to ensure health safety and assist the country in overcoming the national crisis,” he added.
The Cabinet last year approved use of the herb fah talai jone (green chiretta or Andrographis paniculate) to treat asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 after it performed well in studies.
The Covid-19 Omicron variant has now been found in more than 140 countries and will replace Delta soon, expert virologist Dr Yong Poovorawan noted on his Facebook page on Wednesday.
The Omicron variant, though easily transmissible, has a lower severity level than other variants, with the number of hospital admissions and deaths comparatively lower.
Yong said the efficiency of RT-PCR and ATK tests was the same. He explained that most RT-PCR tests use N and RdRp genes, which are stable. Meanwhile, the Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) finds nucleocapsids, which is more stable than finding a spike protein.
He said Omicron can slip past the immunity provided by vaccines, even AstraZeneca and mRNA vaccines. Its spike protein has changed so the vaccines’ efficiency decreases.
Its incubation period is also short, so high immunity is required at all times to protect against the variant. However, vaccinated patients will have fewer symptoms and could recover faster, he wrote.
Yong noted that every wave will affect people’s health and the economy, with the mental health effect being more important than the physical effect.
The number of Omicron infections detected may be far lower than the reality, an expert virologist said on Saturday.
In a Facebook post, Dr Yong Poovorawan explained that lab tests in most countries assume the presence of the Omicron variant when the S-gene is not detected. The Omicron variant apparently masks the S-gene.
However, in Thailand, the entire genome sequencing is studied not just the presence of the S gene, which is why more Omicron patients have been detected here.
In fact, he said, since many patients are asymptomatic, Thailand probably has more than 3,000 Omicron cases.
This may also be true of nearly every other country, Yong added.
He said the best way of working out an accurate average will be to check Covid-19 samples randomly to work out a percentage of Omicron and Delta infections. He added that he expects Omicron to account for 30 per cent of total infections.