The Moderna vaccine and a package being promoted by the Private Hospital Association is emerging as a favoured option among the expat community while many are also quite happy to accept the public programme where the AstraZeneca vaccine is likely to be the dominant offering. Key advice to foreigners is to seek help and consult with their existing medical practitioners and facility or hospital about the best way to get vaccinated. However, it will take some time until a critical level of vaccine supplies enters the system before all hospitals are up to speed with the programme which only now is being rolled out on an industrial scale.
The government and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) are encouraging foreigners living in Thailand to seek the opportunity to register for the kingdom’s vaccine programme despite ongoing confusion and a lack of information being encountered by many expats even this week. The key advice is that foreigners should seek support from their local public health centre or hospital which holds their records although officials are also insisting that all non-Thai nationals will be able to request registration, with their passports as identification, through walk-in vaccine centres and online facilities being operated on both a national and provincial basis.
The government, through the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), has renewed its call to foreigners living in the kingdom to participate in the country’s vaccination drive which will begin on a more intensive and wider basis, from next week.
The second phase of the rollout will see those over 60 and with underlying conditions prioritised with already reports of thousands of foreigners in key urban centres with large expat populations such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mai having registered for the vaccine at local hospitals and vaccine centres.
Call out to expats came at CCSA briefing on Sunday and was especially addressed to residents in key population centres such as Bangkok
The announcement, on Sunday, was made by Mr Natapanu Nopakun of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who regularly hosts an English language briefing at the daily press conferences being given by the body which is coordinating the government’s efforts to control the third virus wave.
This is currently being focused on Bangkok and adjacent provinces as well as key expat hotspots which are also the areas the government plans to reopen to foreign tourism by October 1st.
‘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 Mr Natapanu.
Still confusion among public health officials and staff on the ground in medical centres and hospitals
He particularly addressed his appeal to foreigners and expats in the Bangkok area, urging them to make contact with their local hospital or a designated vaccine centre.
‘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,’ he said.
It comes as many foreigners from other provincial centres of population are still reporting confusion among officials as to the status of non-Thais with many, even in Bangkok and adjacent provinces, still reporting similar issues.
Stronger supply of vaccines should iron out many problems, this is scheduled to happen from next week
The key issues are a current lack of vaccines, the pressure to vaccinate local populations in hard-hit areas by the third wave and lack of communication within the country’s sprawling public health system especially within the private hospital network used by most foreigners.
The lack of vaccine doses within the system has led to many hospitals and medical centres, particularly in less impacted areas by the third wave, being not yet included in the nationwide drive.
This is expected to be addressed from June 7th as Thailand’s own supply of vaccines produced in Pathum Thani is expected to begin distribution in large quantities.
Expats should pursue vaccine appointments at their regular hospital which has their medical records
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and the Ministry of Public Health is now asking foreigners to actively pursue their appointment for vaccination at this time starting with the hospital which has their medical records on file.
Foreigners are being advised that they should be able to register for a vaccine by producing their passport details as a valid form of ID
In Bangkok, the well known Bumrungrad Hospital and the Vimut Hospital in the Phaya Thai area are being highlighted as being receptive to registration from foreigners seeking a vaccine.
The Bumrungrad Hospital has an Expatriate Liaison Center on the 10th floor which is accepting vaccination appointments.
Many expats and foreigners have already reported making appointments to be vaccinated in July.
Government is making an organised effort to get foreigners within the kingdom vaccinated
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is also advising foreigners that individual government departments are working at targeting assistance to foreigners in each sector such as those working in the media and diplomatic missions being organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while the Ministry of Education is working to make sure foreign students have access to inoculation.
In Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Phuket and other key tourist or expat hotspots, provincial authorities have established websites and set up hotline numbers, some of which have English language speakers to interact with foreign residents.
Most intense period for vaccination will be from August to October ahead of a wider tourism reopening
Most expats and foreigners are being advised to register through their hospital and regular medical centre although the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has also stated that they should be accommodated at regional vaccine centres where appointments are on offer for those seeking to be vaccinated through the government’s public programme.
The key impetus of the vaccination drives is to kick in from August next when the main segments of the adult population are being targeted with vaccine doses.
This will also coincide with intense government efforts to achieve a 70% herd immunity target for vaccination in eight key foreign tourism regions as well as Bangkok. These include Buriram, Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Krabi, Phang-nga, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Surat Thani.
Oxford’s AstraZeneca vaccine will be the main vaccine jab on offer within the free public programme
Currently, the vaccines on offer within the public system, for now, are the Oxford University developed AstraZeneca vaccine and the Sinovac jab from China with the AstraZeneca product expected to dominate from June as production is ramped up at the Pathum Thani plant operated by Siam Bioscience.
Currently, Thailand has approved five vaccines including Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer BionTech, Johnson and Johnson and just this week, the supporting Sinopharm jab known as Covilo being dispersed through the Chulabhorn Royal Academy through key organisations.
Thai public support vaccines more than their peers around the globe with a massive 83% acceptance
Foreigners in the kingdom, like most Thais, support the vaccination drive although there are vaccine sceptics also.
Indeed, Thailand in a YouGov opinion poll conducted at the end of last year and the beginning of 2021, was shown to have the highest vaccine acceptance rate in the world at 83% with no less than 68% wishing to have the vaccine administered immediately.
The publicly available vaccines are free but the preferred approach for many foreigners will be obtaining a vaccine from their local medical facility, hospital or medical practitioner with their support and guidance particularly as to which vaccine is most appropriate.
Guidance lacking in hospitals and medical facilities
Many foreigners are still reporting that this guidance is currently lacking at hospitals, particularly private hospitals where they are being told that management is currently seeking clarification from the government or the Ministry of Public Health.
A large and growing group of foreigners have expressed interest in receiving the Moderna vaccine which is reported to be 94.1% effective even if it is only on a private, commercial basis.
Moderna jab option is extremely popular among expats in the kingdom even if it must be paid for
This is currently the subject of an initiative by the Private Hospital Association which recently indicated that it was doubling its order for the jab from 5 to 10 million doses due to demand in the market compiled from submissions from its member concerns.
It is being reported that the delivery of this vaccine is being pursued by the private hospital network through the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation.
This may now occur in August or September whereas earlier it was suggested it would be October before the product and package being promoted by the hospital association is on the market.
The initiative is being led by Dr Chalerm Harnphanich, Chairman of the body and who also heads up Bangkok Chain Hospital Plc.
Price now mooted to be ฿4,100 for a two-dose programme for personal inoculation against Covid 19
Controversy over the proposal flared up recently when it emerged that the vaccine, which must be sold by the manufacturers to a government organisation since the product is only approved in Thailand for emergency use, would also be subject to import taxes.
The price of the package being touted, as of now, for two vaccine doses, hospital administration costs and insurance against side effects, is estimated at ฿4,100 which has risen from a price of ฿3,000 to ฿3,500 per person suggested earlier.
Notwithstanding this, this private option appears to be a popular one being sought by many foreigners and expats in Thailand right now.