BANGKOK — The government’s pandemic response center on Friday said foreign nationals living in Thailand can begin registering for COVID-19 vaccinations next month.
Starting June 7, foreigners will be able to sign up for free inoculations in person at designated hospitals using their social security number or passport, spokesman Natapanu Nopakun said. In Bangkok, the venues are Vimut Hospital and Bangrak Health Center, while those living in the provinces will need to register at the hospital which has their health records, he said.
“Thailand attaches utmost importance to vaccinating everyone according to their level of risk, regardless of nationality,” Natapanu said. “We practice what we pledged. No one is safe until everyone is vaccinated.”
June 7 marks the first day of the country’s long awaited mass vaccination program, in which registered Thai citizens are expected to be inoculated with locally manufactured AstraZeneca doses. The priority will be given to Thai citizens aged over 60 or those with pre-existing medical conditions, while inoculations for Thai adults aged 18 to 59 are slated to begin in August.
Natapanu said the vaccination drive for foreign nationals will follow the same time frame as Thai citizens.
“The actual vaccinations would depend on the appointment,” he said. “Some may have walk-in shots available from June 7, some may have to wait at a later date. Foreign nationals will begin [the vaccinations] at the same time as Thai nationals.”
Registrations for members of the diplomatic corps, international organizations, and their families will be arranged by the foreign ministry, the spokesman said. The higher education ministry will have a separate arrangement for foreign students, while the Social Security Office will be responsible for vaccinations of migrant workers in Thailand.
“I believe I am giving you quite good news,” Natapanu said. “Thank you for your understanding because this has been something of a challenge. This is perhaps the fastest way we believe we can inoculate foreign nationals in Thailand.”
Just over 1.7 million, or 2.6 percent, out of more than 66 million people have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Thailand. The government aims to vaccinate at least 50 million people, or 70 percent of the population, by the end of this year to achieve herd immunity. This includes foreign nationals living in Thailand.
On Thursday, Chinese nationals in Thailand began to receive the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccines as part of China’s global campaign to inoculate its nationals living abroad. The Chinese government donated 500,000 doses to Thailand, part of which is expected to be set aside for more than 100,000 Chinese citizens registered with the Chinese Embassy.
Other foreign embassies in Thailand said they currently have no plans to supply vaccines to its own citizens living in Thailand. The British Embassy in Bangkok said its National Health Service does not cover Britons living abroad.
“As a residence-based system, the NHS does not provide healthcare (including vaccinations) outside the U.K.,” the British Embassy said in a statement. “Our Ambassador spoke to the Thai Prime Minister about this issue, and he has reconfirmed Thailand’s commitment to equal access to vaccines for all living in Thailand, including British nationals.”
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok also echoed a similar response.
“The Department of State does not provide direct medical care to private U.S. citizens abroad and has no current plans to provide vaccinations,” a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said. “We continue working with the Royal Thai Government to advocate that they provide equal vaccine access to residents of all nationalities because none of us is safe until all of us are safe.”
The Russian Embassy in Bangkok said it hopes Russian nationals will be able to receive the shots as pledged by the Thai government, though surplus doses of Sputnik V vaccine are not expected to arrive in Thailand anytime soon.
“The Russian government has no such plans currently,” Russian Embassy spokesman Vladimir Kim said. “The talks about Sputnik V supply here are currently in progress.”
There are about 3 million foreigners living in Thailand.
Update: This story has been updated with quotes from respective foreign embassies in Bangkok.