Updated on 20 June 2013
Mr Charung Muengchana, director, National Vaccine Institute, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand
According to the WHO, Thailand has nearly 520,000 people (aged 5-to-49) living with HIV and AIDS and the country has the highest adult HIV prevalence in South East Asia region. Public health ministry of Thailand has reported that more than 70,000 people were infected with dengue virus in 2012 and spread of tropical disease is suspected to go higher in 2013. Thailand is on the radar of high prevalence of influenza virus as well. Amidst the high risk of disease outbreak in the country, Thailand is making efforts to develop a robust immunization program as a tool to handle any forthcoming pandemic.
Its national vaccine committee aims to protect the country against preventable diseases by planning and recommending need for building human resources, infrastructure development and domestic production of vaccines for dengue, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, mumps, measles, encephalitis, polio, hepatitis B, and tuberculosis. However, the road to achieve self-sufficiency for vaccine development has been full of challenges and the country imports almost 80 percent of its vaccines from foreign players.
In his recent visit to Singapore during the 7th World Vaccine Congress, Mr Charung Muengchana, director, National Vaccine Institute, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand, shared with BioSpectrum the challenges in vaccine development in the country and a possible roadmap for disease prevention in Thailand.
What is Thailand's major concern with respect to public health and disease control?
Thailand is stressing more on the preventive healthcare system as compared to the curative system in order to keep the burden off for future public health management. While curative approach demands immediate actions and steps, preventive healthcare calls for long term planning and strategies. Due to the current prevalence of diseases, preventive healthcare may not appear as an immediate strategy to sustain a disease free environment for future, but in the long run it eases off the burden from the government. However, most of the healthcare budget is directed toward handling immediate disease control and thus plans for diseases prevention takes a back stage. Thailand has a national health security scheme that ensures universal health coverage but most of its focus is on controlling immediate disease burden.