With the first COVID-19 vaccine administered to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last month, Thailand is now ready to begin the mass vaccination program. Things are looking positive with a factory in Thailand producing the AstraZeneca vaccine and other vaccines welcomed from abroad, primarily China and Russia. It is hoped that “a sizeable proportion” of people will have been vaccinated by the middle of next year.

Of course, for many expats living, not only those in Pattaya but across Thailand, the question is, will they be entitled to or even allowed access to the vaccine? Back in February, it was reported in the Bangkok Post that the Thai government would make the vaccine available to everyone, including foreigners in the Kingdom on long-term visas and migrant workers. The report quoted Dr. Apisamai, an assistant spokeswoman for the government, who went further and said, “Vaccinations will include expatriates and migrant workers. The government intends to offer equal protection.”

So far, Thailand has fared exceptionally well compared to many western countries fighting against the virus, but the government is keen to stress that the fight is by no means over. As such, they have laid out three objectives for the vaccination program. As with most countries’ policies, the primary intention is to protect the elderly and most vulnerable, in this case, those over 60, along with those with any chronic diseases.

Secondly, and again following the example of countries such as the UK, the objective is to protect the national health system and all hospitals around the country from being swamped. Finally, medical professionals and any involved with control of the virus will be treated as a priority, followed by those working in critical industrial sectors such as tourism and service industries. All employers with migrant workers will be required to “co-pay” for their vaccinations.

Private hospitals around the Kingdom will be granted permission to acquire the vaccine from suppliers who they deem fit, and as long as the Food and Drug Administration has approved it, this will be acceptable. Private hospitals must also have the appropriate equipment available on hand should recipients suffer an allergic reaction, primarily in the form of EpiPen. Of course, adequate facilities for storing and administering the vaccine will also be required.

Vaccination certificates will be issued to anyone, including foreigners, who have received the vaccine allowing them to travel abroad. However, it anticipated on their return to the Kingdom; they will still be required to quarantine for seven days although, this hasn’t yet been confirmed. For foreigners returning to Thailand, and it is believed Thais who have had both doses of the vaccine abroad, they will be allowed to return to Thailand but again quarantine for seven days if they have a “Vaccine Passport”.

Those involved with tourism in Pattaya have cautiously welcomed the news as they still express concerns about the length of time that people are required to quarantine. Hopes for a return to “normal” in 2021 appear slim, but everyone has their fingers crossed for mid-2022.