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Thailand's Tale of COVID-19, Medicine, and Vaccination
Pandemic National Case Studies
“Those who can’t dance blame it on the flute and the drum.” -Thai proverb
Thailand is one of the last large (constitutional) monarchies, at least partially due to its resistance to European colonization. However, the 70 million citizens of Thailand currently live under military rule.
Thailand’s 2020 Chloroquine Treatment Results
On January 13, 2020, Thailand became the first nation outside of China to report a confirmed COVID-19 case—a visitor from Wuhan. Within days of China’s announcement of its STP of CQ, Thai press began to advertise China’s policy to its people. Since CQ is sold OTC in Thailand as an anti-malarial, Thai citizens were able to buy it and self-medicate if they worried they might be infected with the novel coronavirus. By March 11, CQ was added to official treatment guidelines, though Thai pharmacies had been advertising CQ for weeks. This likely cut down the need for doctor and hospital visits, and with it nosocomial infection. In April, Thailand also received shipments of HCQ from India to use as COVID-19 medication. The WHO praised Thailand’s public health measures, but without any mention of HCQ or CQ.
Discussion of the use of CQ in Thailand was censored at Reddit.
Despite the low rate of SARS-CoV-2 spread in Thailand, all “non-essential businesses were shut down along with schools, entertainment venues and public gatherings,” from mid-March until the end of August of 2020 (Issac et al, 2021, including figure below). This shutting down of the nation spurred peaceful protest gatherings after a few months.
Though Thailand experienced a several-week wave of cases, primarily in March and April, the wave soon collapsed with scarcely identified COVID-19 cases since April 2020. Thailand’s CFR remained under 2% during 2020 (substantially below world averages) as only one single COVID-19 death was recorded in the four months from June 3, 2020 through Oct 3, 2020. A total of 61 people died with COVID-19 in 2020, including just 4 over the last seven months.
Overall, through the first year of the pandemic, Thailand stood out as having one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 illness among all nations—particularly large nations—in the world.
Thailand’s Experimental Vaccination Campaign
On Sunday, February 27, 2021, Thailand kicked off its vaccination campaign with China’s Sinovac despite suffering only 83 COVID-19 deaths (1.2 per million citizens) up to that point in time. The Astrazeneca and CoronaVac vaccines were also soon distributed, and the Pfizer vaccine was approved in late June. From June 6 to Dec 1, over 65% of the Thai population received at least one vaccine dose. As of April 19, 2022, almost 80% of the residents of Thailand were vaccinated.
There can be no way to describe the mass vaccination program in Thailand other than as a tragic disaster. The year following the start of the vaccination program saw around 300 times as many COVID-19 deaths as the year prior, with over 27,000 COVID-19 deaths reported as of April 19, 2022.
While Thailand saw around 25,000 cases prior to vaccination, the total number of COVID-19 cases there now stands at more than 4 million.
Suspiciously, the case fatality rate, which had been falling in Thailand prior to mass vaccination, as in much of the world, exploded upward to more than triple the rate at the outset of the experimental vaccination program.
We can see no particular health crisis in Thailand prior to vaccine rollout, but a dramatic increase in excess (all-cause) mortality since.
While the U.S. continues to deny the reality of vaccine injuries, Thailand has acknowledged them and paid out millions to over 12,000 people as of March 13, 2022.
Though sparsely reported in Western media, Thailand’s protests turned violent a few weeks into the vaccine rollout. Though some of this violence stemmed from separatist pressure in Southern regions bordering Malaysia, Thailand’s youth-driven movement for democracy has pushed street combat into all corners of the nation. While ABC News Australia claims the protests are partially over lack of vaccine availability, this explanation defies reality on numerous levels. In the following video, we hear a man on a megaphone protesting the vaccine policies.
Some protesters may think that switching to different vaccines is the answer, but the fates of other nations do not support this conclusion.
Thailand recently eased some of the world’s most harsh travel restrictions, but still make travel hardest for those lacking proof of vaccination status. This may not be enough to revive Thailand’s vast tourism industry which lost tens of billions in per annum revenue during the pandemic, the second largest hit on GDP among nations in the world.