VACCINATIONS FOR FOREIGNERS ‘PLANNING TO HAVE A PLAN?’

A high-ranking government official has stated that authorities plan to include 3 million foreigners living in the country in its mass vaccination program to protect the entire population, amid concerns over the scope of vaccine access.

“Anybody living in Thailand, whether they be Thai or foreign, if they want the vaccine, they can get it,” Opas Kankawinpong, head of the disease control department, told a briefing.  “No one is safe until everyone is safe,” he added.

The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) also says that foreigners are included in Thailand’s vaccination plan, saying that foreigners have already been included in the first phase of vaccinations.

The CCSA spokesperson said that Thailand’s vaccination strategy is based on ensuring accessibility to all those who require it, regardless of their nationality, adding that Thailand continues to include foreign residents in its vaccination program and some foreign residents have been inoculated in the first phase already.

The statement goes on to say that due to the limited number of doses, Thai health officials have to prioritise the doses, first vaccinating those at risk including frontline healthcare workers, the elderly, and those living in areas where there is a severe outbreak. The spokesperson says foreigners, including migrant workers and migrant health volunteers, have been included in the first phase of vaccinations.

The next phase will include the diplomatic community and international organisations as well as foreign residents depending on their level of risk.  Officials are also working on a system for foreigners to register for the vaccine, discussing whether to have a mobile application or to just have foreign residents contact hospitals directly for a vaccine.

The Ministry of Public Health spokesman Rungrueng Kitphati. had previously stated “they [expats] should wait for a clear policy from the government.”  The CCSA says this statement was taken out of context.

Concerns among expatriates have been raised in recent weeks, with some venting frustrations on social media about a contradictory public information, problems registering or confusion over vaccine availability; including from private sources. 

A recently request to the Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin about potential timelines of vaccines being made available privately received the following response: “The soon-to-be-available vaccines are still managed by the government. It is expected that in Q4 the private hospitals may be able to have some vaccines in hand for commercial use. There is a Hua Hin Recharge program campaigning mass vaccination in Hua Hin between July to September which may include foreign residents. It is still in an early stage and there will be a concrete update some time in June.”

Whether these recent statements appease frustrations seems doubtful as the uncertainty about registration, costs and the reality of when vaccinations may be received remains.