The advancing Delta strain in Thailand means it is make your mind up time for many foreigners living here who, up to now, felt protected by Thailand’s low rate of infection for the disease. For one elderly expat with only one kidney, the choice was a no brainer and he now feels safer while looking forward to his second COVID jab in October.
Foreigners over 75 years of age living in Thailand have been declared a priority group by Thai public health officials and are eligible for a free vaccine from Monday at the large walk-in vaccine centre at Bang Sue Grand Station just outside Bangkok. A 71-year-old expat travelled this week from Pattaya to Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok to get his first dose and declared he feels all the better for it.
Amid a worsening COVID-19 situation in Thailand, the country’s public health service continues to plough on in face of the challenge while officials, even with a shortage of vaccine doses, are trying to protect those most at risk which includes those with underlying conditions and those who are quite elderly.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in association with the Department of Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health and the Central Vaccination Centre, has just announced that all elderly foreigners living in Thailand who are over 75 are a priority for the government at this time.
From Monday, foreigners over 75 can walk in and get vaccinated in Bangkok at Bang Sue Grand Station
From Monday next, at Bang Sue Grand Station in Bangkok, on the outskirts of the capital, foreigners in this group can avail of a free vaccine by simply turning up from 9 am to 4 pm at Gates 2, 3 and 4.
The news was first announced on Wednesday by Apisamai Srisangson at a Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) briefing.
This group of foreigners and pregnant women were targeted by the order.
Those expats taking up the offer must bring with them their passport and proof of residence in Thailand such as a visa or a work permit.
Registration service for foreigners aged 60 to 74 and living in Bangkok or adjacent provinces
Meanwhile, authorities are also gearing up to vaccinate those aged from 60 to 74 years of age who are living in Bangkok or one of the dark red provinces currently subject to emergency public health controls.
Expats interested in availing of this free service are asked to register for an appointment.
Book for a vaccine appointment here if you are a foreigner and between 60 and 74 years of age in Bangkok or its adjacent provinces
It is reported that, already, over two thousand foreigners have registered for vaccination under this programme which is free of charge.
Only over 60s under the plan right now
Mr Tanee Sangrat, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has pointed out, however, that this vaccination programme is only for foreigners from 60 years up, at this point.
It is understood that many foreigners under this age limit have already turned up at the Bangkok vaccination centre.
National vaccination programme still limps along with foreigners with underlying conditions eligible
It should also be pointed out that this initiative is separate from the overall government vaccination drive where those with underlying conditions still qualify for a vaccination appointment and should refer to their own hospitals or government information points for advice and guidance.
Thai officials are dealing with an ever-changing and fluid situation with a chronic shortage of vaccines.
There is no guaranteed choice of vaccines available in the public system which is currently using Sinovac as the first vaccine dose followed later by a second AstraZeneca jab.
No choice of vaccines, its Sinovac followed by AstraZeneca as public health service struggles to overcome chronic shortages within the programme
Some foreigners have managed to book appointments and later have expressed their disappointment at being administered with the Sinovac vaccine whose efficacy is diminished against the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Chaos and confusion as vaccination drive is left in disarray with no new doses supplied this week to facilities
Jab site for expats as country’s second vaccination phase begins driven by locally produced AstraZeneca doses
The government’s vaccination drive has hit problems since mid-June when a lack of vaccine doses became apparent with cancelled appointments and other disruptions as Thai public health officials try to adapt to the emergency caused by the explosion of local infection clusters caused by this latest and more deadly wave.
Seek out guidance and advice depending on what province you live in from local authorities
As well as contacting key medical centres, other foreigners in Thailand have been vaccinated through efforts of the diplomatic corps accredited to certain countries who are also offering guidance.
The Thai government has given a commitment to vaccinate all foreigners living in Thailand without exception.
Foreigners should look closely for medical advice from provincial authorities as well as medical centres depending on the province they are living with some provinces providing guidance specifically for foreigners while others do not.
71-year-old Pattaya expat travelled to Bangkok this week to get vaccinated at Bumrungrad Hospital
On Friday, a 71-year-old expat living in Pattaya posted online about his experience having travelled from Pattaya to the Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok this week for a 9 am appointment.
He was able to achieve an appointment for the vaccine after the government recently designated Chonburi and Pattaya as a red zone of infection subject to stricter public health measures.
Elderly man with only one kidney decided the risk from the virus at this time was too high for him
The 71-year-old with one kidney is obviously quite vulnerable to this latest wave of infection but also made it clear in his online post this week that he was aware of quite a few foreigners under 60 who have already managed to make appointments and get vaccinated.
The elderly man also acknowledged that some people are wary of the COVID-19 vaccines licenced for emergency use and he respected this but, in his situation, he thought the risks of not being vaccinated were too high.
Trip to Bangkok encountered no checkpoints
His trip to Bangkok this week took less time than he had anticipated as he timed the journey to allow for police checkpoints on the way.
As it happened, there were none. He arrived in Bangkok 45 minutes early for a vaccine appointment at the internationally well known and respected city centre hospital among foreigners.
On arrival, after taking his blood pressure, it was found it was high.
Vaccine jab completed with a photo snap then told to wait for 30 minutes in case of adverse reactions
After completing a lot of paperwork, the vaccine itself was administered by a doctor and was just a normal injection.
The foreigner had his picture taken with the medical staff which he was told is a common practice among those taking the vaccine.
The older man was then handed an appointment to return to the hospital on October 2nd for his second vaccine dose.
He was asked to wait for 30 minutes in case of any adverse reaction to the jab and, after this, he was pleased to find that his blood pressure was normal.
Obviously, some stress prior to taking the vaccine had played its part.
The other good news was that there was absolutely no charge.
Feels safer, looking forward to the second dose
The Pattaya resident then set off home in case any adverse reactions developed but after 24 hours, he reported he felt quite normal and also safer. He was satisfied with his decision.
He said that he will feel even happier after the second vaccine dose and just hopes now that Thailand can find more vaccines to help return the kingdom to normal.
About the Author
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.