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(Refiles to refer to Bangkok governor by his surname in paragraph 8)
By Juarawee Kittisilpa
(Reuters) - Thailand's capital launched on Wednesday a pilot bus service to ensure that the elderly and other vulnerable groups in Bangkok are vaccinated against COVID-19, underscoring the country's push to speed up its inoculation campaign.
Driven by the especially virulent Delta variant, Thai authorities have been struggling to contain the country's worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic.
In an effort to reach those who find it hard to travel far from their homes, the Bangkok city administration has laid on a bus equipped with a mobile vaccination team.
"I can't really travel much, it's not convenient for me, but this has made it so much easier," said Manat Phumklahan, 58, a Bangkok resident who was receiving his first shot of a vaccine and uses a wheelchair.
Another resident, Boonsak Suwannakij, 22, also stressed the benefits of the bus. "I am in a risk group living in a red zone district in Bangkok, so it is more convenient to have this within the local community," he said.
Once the procedures are ironed out, the bus should be able to move around to different locations every day and more mobile teams can be brought in, the city's governor said.
"This is the first of its kind...We are in the process of building more," Aswin Kwanmuang told a group of people waiting to get inoculated in the bus, which was parked beside the Thepnaree Buddhist temple.
Aswin said the bus needed only five or six people to operate - the driver, three medics administering vaccines and up to two others handling paperwork. The scheme could inoculate more than 1,000 individuals a day, he said.
Thailand's vaccination rollout got off to a slower start than some neighbours. About 16.5% of the country's 72 million people of all nationalities have now been fully vaccinated.
The country has reported more than 1.3 million infections and more than 13,500 coronavirus-related deaths, most of them since April.
(Writing by Ed Davies and Mark Heinrich) REUTERS