The Department of Social Development and Welfare and homeless advocacy groups have arranged the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the homeless in Bangkok.
Uthen Chanakul, chief of Welfare Protection and Quality of Life Promotion Division, said the department has liaised with other agencies to arrange vaccinations for an initial group of homeless people. On 10th June, the Department of Health of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration surveyed vaccination locations for them.
Mr Chanakul said that two weeks ago, the department and homeless advocacy groups visited the homeless to hand over sanitation items and necessities and promote vaccine understanding. They also gauged the demand for vaccines among 98 people from homeless shelters in Taling Chan and Din Daeng districts and public areas.
He said the ministry found that some homeless had no ID cards. The department was concerned that with the varying places that they stay, it will be challenging to track them to ensure they get two doses of the same brand of vaccine within the specified time frame.
In the provinces, homeless shelters have coordinated with local authorities to vaccinate the homeless.
Anuk Pitukthanin, a researcher at the Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University, said the homeless have equal rights to receive health welfare from the government. Many are elderly and have one of seven underlying illnesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.
He said they have no ability to seek protective equipment such as face masks and hand sanitiser as many lost their jobs during the economic downturn, so they should be the priority target group.
Mr Pitukthanin said Thailand is thought to have more than 4,000 homeless people in big cities nationwide.
Atchara Sorawaree, secretary-general of Issarachon Foundation, said there are almost 2,000 homeless in Bangkok, but none of them are eligible for vaccination, so if they are infected, they could spread the virus widely.
Volunteers who work with the homeless should also be vaccinated, Ms Sorawaree said.
Sittipol Chooprajong, project manager of the Mirror Foundation, also said the homeless cannot afford smartphones, needed to book vaccine appointments on the government’s online platforms.