Foreigners worry about when they can get a Covid-19 vaccine as Thai prime minister pauses idea of walk-in vaccinations

PHOTO: AstraZeneca

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An announcement yesterday by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan O’Cha in which he said he had personally put a “pause” on the idea of walk-in vaccinations has caused many foreigners to be concerned about when they could get a Covid-19 vaccine.

Thai officials with the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) have previously stated multiple times that foreign residents will be able to take part in the government mass vaccination program. However, any specific details have yet to be released, including what the definition of “resident” is.  There are several media reports of some foreigners with work permits in essential fields, such as medical workers or teachers, who have been signed up for vaccinations through their company or organization, but for the most part, the vast majority of foreigners in Thailand remain waiting for more information.

The CCSA has stated that although some foreigners were able to successfully sign up with the Thai language vaccination mobile application with social security cards or “pink” cards, that those applications were for Thai nationals and not designed for foreigners.  CCSA spokesperson Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin has stated that an English language mobile application for vaccine registration of foreigners was in development, but there have been mixed reports on when this will be available, with some reports stating it could be as long as August.

CCSA English-language spokesman Natapanu Nopakun, also the deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hinted previously that foreigners may be able to take part in a proposed “walk-in” vaccination program, but this is also on hold after the Prime Minister put the idea of walk-ins on the ice yesterday afternoon.

According to Prime Minister Prayut Chan O’Cha, proceeding with walk-ins could cause scenes of chaos, as well as potentially further spread the Covid-19 virus and cause people unable to secure a vaccine to get angry. He didn’t permanently rule out ever doing walk-ins in the future, but it seems the idea is off the table for now, especially in Bangkok where the largest number of people reside and the largest number of Covid-19 cases. The PM did state that some provinces and areas, especially more rural ones, could probably pull off walk-ins without an issue but that would be evaluated by the CCSA in the future.

The PM also stated that confusing and conflicting messages by different organizations were contributing to more problems and that people should listen to the central messages from the CCSA around vaccinations.  A proposal of manual registrations was also brought up for those without smartphones or health officials going into local communities with the elderly, vulnerable, and at-risk to invite them for vaccination.

Meanwhile, foreigners who were hoping to walk in for a vaccine to the upcoming start of mass vaccinations in Pattaya will need to wait a while longer, causing much concern on social media comments over the past day. With no sign of a foreign language application in the near future or the ability to walk into a vaccination site, many foreign residents would be interested to register for a vaccine at a private hospital. Some hospitals have begun registration, although there is no definitive date on when their supplies, most likely to be Moderna vaccines, will arrive or even what the exact cost will be.

For now, foreign residents, many of who pay tax, raise Thai children, run Thai businesses, and have Thai wives and support extended Thai families, will need to wait. In areas like Pattaya, which plan to re-open to foreign tourists by October, or Phuket, which is planning to open in July, this is especially worrying for those who want to be fully protected by a vaccine before tourists return.

TPN media will keep you updated as soon as we get concrete information on any vaccine process that foreign residents can take place in, private or public.

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