"It's a historic day and a day to help the country rebuild confidence against the pandemic," Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said.
BANGKOK, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- Thailand on Sunday started its COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, with the first shot, using China's Sinovac vaccine, going to Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha presided over the event at the country's infectious disease institute, where other officials, including deputy public health minister, agriculture minister, culture minister and deputy education minister, were also vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine.
"It's a historic day and a day to help the country rebuild confidence against the pandemic," Prayut told reporters after all the recipients of the vaccine ended their 30-minute observation period and had shown no adverse reaction.
Also on Sunday, 159 people in Samut Sakhon province, the epicenter of the country's new wave of an outbreak that erupted in mid-December, are scheduled to receive their first shot of the vaccine. These included local officials as well as representatives of at-risk groups such as medical workers and migrant workers.
"I did not feel any pain from the injection. It's like any other ordinary injections," said Kanokwan Thongmanut, a private company employer in Samut Sakhon, who volunteered to take her first shot of the Sinovac vaccine Sunday.
"Before the injection, I was a little nervous, but not concerned. The government has assured us the vaccines' safety and there is no reports of any problems after the vaccine being widely used abroad," Kanokwan said.
The roll-out came days after Thailand received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from China's Sinovac, which were then distributed to 13 provinces, including the capital Bangkok.
Anutin reaffirmed on Sunday that the second batch of Sinovac vaccine are scheduled to arrive in March, followed by another batch in April.
The country also secured vaccines from AstraZeneca, with 117,000 doses having arrived Wednesday, according to the Government Public Relations Department. Before being used, the batch would be subject to final quality assurance, which is expected to complete by the second week of March, AstraZeneca said in a statement.
Thailand has set a three-staged national inoculation program, aiming to vaccinate enough of the general population to create herd immunity.
The Southeast Asian country has so far confirmed 25,951 COVID-19 cases with 83 fatalities.
With its heavy reliance on tourism, Thailand has been hit hard. The country welcomed about 40 million foreign tourists in 2019, but only 6.7 million trickled in last year.
It is widely expected that the COVID-19 vaccines will be a game-changer. Prayut hopes the vaccine would contribute to the recovery of the tourism sector through easing restrictive measures, such as exempting vaccinated tourists from the two-week mandatory quarantine.