By Jiraporn and Kuhakan
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand began a renewed drive to vaccinate Buddhist monks and other temple workers in Bangkok against the coronavirus on Friday, as the country battles its most deadly surge in infections since the pandemic began.
Officials said they planned to provide AstraZeneca vaccines to 221 temples in the Thai capital, before beginning distribution in other parts of the country.
"We have invited about 600 monks, undertakers, cooks and people who are located at the temples of Thonburi city area to get vaccinated," said Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang.
Thailand first began rolling out vaccines to Buddhist monks in May, building up protection to allow them to receive daily alms and perform spiritual duties. Thailand has an estimated 200,000 monks.
Bangkok is the epicentre of a recent wave of new infections in Thailand, driven by the Delta variant of the virus.
A sluggish vaccine roll-out, which has led to huge crowds queuing up day after day in some places for COVID tests and inoculations, has led to public criticism of the government's handling of the crisis.
Just 5.6% of the country's 66 million population has been fully vaccinated. It has reported around 560,000 COVID-19 infections and 4,500 deaths.
Thailand on Friday issued an emergency decree banning the dissemination of "false messages" that affect security, drawing criticism from media groups.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said earlier this week the spread of fake news was causing confusion and undermining the government's ability to manage the pandemic.
(Editing by Jane Wardell)