Thailand’s mass vaccination programme for COVID-19 kicks off next month – including the jabs for foreigners.
“All people living on Thai soil, Thais and foreign nationals alike, are requested to register for vaccination through designated channels, should they wish to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” said deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Natapanu Nopakun.
“This will allow the authorities to plan ahead accordingly and avoid crowded gatherings and long queues on the vaccination day,” said Mr Nopakun, who also presents a press briefing in English for the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) every day.
Foreign nationals are part of Thailand’s efforts to achieve herd immunity in the country and are encouraged to get vaccinated. Authorities have assigned various agencies to be in charge of foreign nationals to ease the process of vaccine roll-out, he said.
“For instance, vaccinations for diplomats, members of international organisations and foreign media are coordinated by the Foreign Ministry. Foreign students are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation. Migrant workers from neighbouring countries are taken care of by the Social Security Office,” he said.
“Spouses of Thai citizens, retirees, investors and all other foreign nationals are advised to contact the hospital with their health record or make an on-site registration at designated vaccination venues.”
“Businesses and organisations can also liaise with the Ministry of Public Health to organise vaccination schedules for their employees, regardless of their nationalities,” he said.
The governors of each province, as well as Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, have been tasked with organising the nationwide vaccination rollout, the spokesman said, adding foreigners are advised to check the details of vaccination venues issued by each province.
For example, hospitals have been designated in Bangkok, while Chiang Mai recently announced the launch of a website for foreign nationals in the province to register for their vaccines starting last Friday.
To meet the demands of the national vaccination drive, the government has procured jabs from Sinovac and AstraZeneca.
There will be additional vaccines from other manufacturers, which are now in the procurement process, the spokesman said, adding AstraZeneca is due to deliver its first batch of locally-produced vaccines in June. The aim is to vaccinate 70% of the population by 2021, and everyone else by 2022, he said.
Additionally, there is an option for the private sector to import vaccines via the public sector, such as the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO).
“Most manufacturers will not sell COVID-19 vaccines directly to private companies since these vaccines are approved for emergency use only. With this option, people will be able to choose their preferred vaccine even if it differs from those provided by the government.”
“These vaccines, however, must still be approved by the WHO, Thailand’s FDA or the Ministry of Public Health,” he said, adding one recent example is the Sinopharm vaccine which is being imported by the Chulabhorn Research Academy, scheduled to arrive next month. This vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 28th May, making it the fifth vaccine approved for emergency use.
The other four vaccines are by AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.
FDA secretary-general Paisarn Dankum said on Friday applications to register two more COVID-19 vaccines – Sputnik V from Russia and Covaxin from India – are being reviewed.
Despite the move to open registrations, actual vaccinations will depend on the availability of stock, according to agencies responsible for the services.
Meanwhile, Phuket is set to receive international travellers who have been vaccinated without quarantine from 1st July under its sandbox model.
Phuket Tourist Association President Bhummikitti Ruktaengam said the first arrivals are expected from traditional long-haul European markets, with the UK, France, Germany and Scandinavia leading the way.
Vaccination registration for all foreigners working in Phuket has been open since 19th May.