Thailand says foreigners to get Covid-19 vaccines amid access concern

Thailand needs to immunise about 50 million people to achieve herd immunity of about 70 per cent of the population.
Thailand needs to immunise about 50 million people to achieve herd immunity of about 70 per cent of the population.PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thailand confirmed on Thursday (May 6) that it plans to include three million foreigners living in the country in its mass vaccination programme to protect the entire population, amid concerns over the scope of vaccine access.

"Anybody living in Thailand, whether they be Thai or foreign, if they want they vaccine, they can get it," Dr Opas Kankawinpong, head of the Disease Control Department, told a briefing.

"No one is safe until everyone is safe," he added.

The Thai government has repeatedly said foreigners would be offered vaccines.

But concerns among expatriates have risen in recent weeks, with some venting their frustrations on social media about a lack of public information, problems registering or confusion over private vaccine availability.

Thailand needs to immunise about 50 million people to achieve herd immunity of about 70 per cent of the population, based on estimates of 67 million Thais and three million foreign residents, he said.

The country has yet to start its mass immunisation programme but has administered vaccines to mostly front-line workers from its stock of 2.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccines.

Its main source of vaccines will be a local manufacturer, which is set to produce AstraZeneca's vaccines after June.

Anxiety over vaccines has risen in Thailand as it deals with its biggest outbreak so far, with more than two-thirds of its 336 fatalities recorded in the past month alone.

New daily infections have been stable around 2,000 since mid-April. There were 1,911 new coronavirus cases and 18 deaths announced on Thursday.

The Health Ministry is working on other ways to include non-Thais in the vaccination programme, including via mobile applications or direct contact from hospitals, according to the Foreign Ministry.