(ATF) Ministers of Thailand’s military-backed government were among the first in line as the nation got its coronavirus vaccination programme underway.
Health officials and medical professionals were also among those to receive jabs.
The first doses of vaccine, developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, were given to Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also the health minister, among others at an infectious diseases institute on the outskirts of Bangkok.
"I hope that the vaccination will result in people being safe from the spread of COVID-19 and it allows Thailand to return to normalcy as soon as possible," Anutin told reporters afterwards.
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In most nations that have already begun their immunisation programmes priority has been given to the elderly and vulnerable, with national leaders only qualifying if they fall into those categories. Otherwise, they’ve had to wait.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, 66, attended the event, although his age falls outside the range of 18 to 59 suitable to receive SinoVac's CoronaVac vaccine, so he did not get it.
Thailand received its first 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine from China and 117,00 imported doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine this week.
CoronaVac has been distributed to 13 high-risk provinces, which will start injecting front-line health professionals and volunteers on Sunday, the health ministry has said.
AstraZeneca's vaccine will be ready for use by the second week of March, after going through quality control tests, the company said in a statement.
Thailand is expected to take delivery of a further 1.8 million doses of CoronaVac in March and April.
A mass campaign to administer 10 million doses a month is set to begin in June, with 61 million shots of AstraZeneca vaccines produced by local firm Siam Bioscience.
With a tally of just over 25,000 infections, Thailand has escaped the kind of fallout suffered by some other countries since the pandemic began last year.
- Reporting by Reuters