Thailand says foreigners to get Covid-19 vaccines amid access concern
Thailand on has assured its foreign residents that they can get COVID-19 vaccinations, countering comments by some officials suggesting they would be at the end of the line for inoculations.
Director-General of Thailand’s Department of Disease Control,Opas Karnkawinpong, on Thursday made the pledge as Thailand is fighting to control an outbreak of Coronavirus.
He said all at least 70% of Thailand’s population had to be inoculated to create herd immunity and that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha “mentioned clearly that everyone on Thai soil, both Thais and foreigners, can access the vaccines.”
“Foreigners and diplomats will have the same criteria as Thais,” Opas said, adding that the country had a population of 67 million Thai nationals and 3 million foreigners.
More than 2.5 million foreigners in Thailand are from neighboring countries, including Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Many work on construction sites and in factories. The rest, about 200,000, are mostly professionals legally living in Thailand and retirees — from Australia, China, Britain, Europe and the United States.
With strict travel restrictions in place, many foreign residents would need to make time consuming and expensive trips abroad to get the shots.
“We have followed international practice,” he said. “Thais and foreigners including diplomats will be treated equally. ”
Thailand has been very slow and haphazard in its vaccination rollout and showed no sense of urgency until early April, when new infections began sweeping through slums and low-income areas located in and around Bangkok’s central business district.
Less than 2% of all Thais have been inoculated for COVID-19, mostly health workers, but the government says it intends to vaccinate 70% by the end of the year.
Until recently, Thailand had relatively few cases and less than 100 deaths. It only signed deals for the local manufacturing of AstraZeneca vaccines in late 2020, choosing at first only to import China’s Sinovac vaccines.
The effort gained urgency as new cases surged to about 2,000 a day, as deaths began escalating.
On Thursday, Thailand reported 1,911 new cases and 18 new deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 76,811, with 336 deaths. Of the total cases, 47,948 cases were since April 1, along with most deaths.
Only three vaccines have been authorized for use in Thailand and only two have been administered so far: the AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines. The government now says it is trying to import U.S. and Russian-made vaccines, but they likely face a lengthy authorization process.