BANGKOK — Foreigners living on Thai soil will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, a health official said Thursday, though details of which are yet to be revealed.
Opas Karnkawinpong, director of the Department of Disease Control, said everyone living in Thailand, both Thai and foreign, are included in the government’s ambitious plan to inoculate at least 70 percent of the population by the end of the year. However, he did not provide a time frame or other details on how a foreign national can register for the jabs.
“Everyone living in Thailand, whether Thai or foreigner, will get the vaccine if they consent to it,” he said.
Thailand’s vaccine rollout has been slower compared with some of its neighboring countries. Less than one percent of the population has been fully vaccinated so far as the country’s initial batches of imported Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines are being given to frontline healthcare workers, volunteers, and vulnerable groups.
The mass vaccination program is set to kick off on June 7 with locally manufactured AstraZeneca doses. The registration for the first phase of the vaccination drive began Saturday, with priority given to Thai citizens aged over 60 or those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Inoculations for Thai adults aged 18 to 59 are slated to begin in August. Thai citizens can sign up to get the vaccine via Line messenger app, or by contacting their local village health volunteers or hospitals.
“No one is safe, until everyone is safe,” Opas said in English.
The announcement came after health ministry spokesman Rungrueng Kitphati said on Tuesday that the government had no plans to give away jabs to foreigners.
“The vaccines right now are only reserved for Thai people who are now at a high-risk level or living in the severe outbreak areas,” Rungrueng was quoted as saying by Bangkok Post. “In the future, the country will provide more alternatives for vaccines so they could have a chance of getting it. There will soon be a surplus of vaccines.”
A shipment of one million doses of Sinovac vaccine arrived in Thailand Thursday morning. As of Thursday, Thailand received three million doses of Sinovac vaccine imported from China, and 117,300 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine imported from South Korea.
Only vaccines manufactured by AstraZeneca, Sinovac, and Johnson & Johnson have been approved for emergency use in Thailand, the Thai FDA said Wednesday, though the latter is yet to be imported to Thailand.
The government is also hoping to procure 5 to 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccines to meet its immunization target by the end of this year, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha had said earlier on April 20.
The new outbreak, which stemmed from a nightlife scene in Bangkok, has accounted for more than half of the country’s total confirmed cases and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic last year.
Thailand has approximately 67 million national and 3 million foreigners.
As of Thursday, a total of 1,167,719 people received the first dose, while 434,114 received the second dose.