Some S'poreans in Thailand opt to wait for preferred Covid-19 vaccines

Housewife Christine Lee lives in Bangkok with her husband and young children. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHRISTINE LEE

BANGKOK - Some Singaporeans living in Thailand have watched in envy as friends and family get vaccinated at home.

"When peers (in our age group) in Singapore started getting vaccinated, we became kancheong ('overly anxious' in Cantonese)," said housewife Christine Lee, 35, who lives in Bangkok with her husband and young children.

She had tried to use the Thai government portal set up for foreigners to register for Covid-19 vaccines last month, but faced problems with the online application.

Fortunately, she and her husband managed to get the AstraZeneca vaccine through the latter's employer.

There is also the question of getting the "vaccine of choice" for some of the Singaporeans, as Thailand relies mostly on locally made AstraZeneca and China's Sinovac.

Other vaccines, like the mRNA-based Moderna, are deemed alternative vaccines and are offered by private hospitals at a price.

"I would prefer the mRNA vaccines, but there's no choice if we want to get vaccinated quickly. We are even more scared of getting Covid-19," said Mr Jessman Khor, 40, who received his first AstraZeneca dose earlier this week.

Last month, Mr Khor, who runs an online business, set up a chat group for Singaporeans in Thailand on messenger app Line to facilitate discussion on vaccinations. There are about 120 members.

"Many of us didn't know where to go or what to do," he said.

While there is the option of returning to Singapore to get vaccinated, Mr Khor said there were financial, logistical and job constraints for many in the group, preventing them from leaving Thailand.

"I weighed my options and it wasn't cost effective," said Mr Khor about returning home. He lives in Samut Prakan province with his son, aged two, and his Thai national wife.

There are some who are holding out for the mRNA shots. A Singaporean who works in hospitality and wanted to be known only as Dan, 28, said he would not take the AstraZeneca or Sinovac vaccines.

"If I'm going to take such a new vaccine, I want to take one with the highest efficacy," he said.

Dan is also worried that if he is vaccinated with shots other than those used in Singapore, it could mean being regarded as unvaccinated when he returns home.

Last month, he placed a 2,400 baht (S$99) deposit to secure a slot for the Moderna vaccine with a private hospital here. "I'm told it's coming in October," he said. "I can wait, I don't think I'm at risk now."

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