Not one Bangkok hospital could be found Friday able to register non-Thai nationals for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Despite repeated assurances that the vaccine supply would be equitably distributed and that foreign nationals could directly register at hospitals, a poll of 12 facilities in the capital found none able or willing to register non-citizens, with one insisting it could only do so after 70% of Thai nationals were vaccinated.
Yesterday, five days after registration began through a smartphone app only available to those over 60 holding national ID cards – over a million have signed up so far – the pandemic task force said that noncitizens should register directly with local hospitals.
That does not seem to be the case. Inquiries with 12 hospitals throughout metropolitan Bangkok on Friday morning were met with various negative responses. Registration is currently open to the elderly or those with serious health conditions.
MedPark Hospital said that it cannot register foreign nationals until the government “completes 70%” of vaccination of Thais first.
“The government will inform us again when we can offer direct registration of vaccines to foreigners,” a hospital call center rep said.
Negative responses also came from Thammasat, Chulalongkorn, Ramathibodi, Phayathai, Vimut, Kasemrad and Bumrungrad hospitals – none offers access to vaccines for non-citizens who would otherwise be eligible due to their age or condition.
That contradicted Thursday’s assurance that everyone, native or immigrant, could now register for vaccinations due to kick off next month. “Nobody is safe until everyone is safe,” Disease Control Department director Opas Kankawinpong said Thursday.
Thai nationals without access to the smartphone app are in the same boat. Most of the hospitals polled today said they would also refuse to register Thais, whether they called or showed up in person to do so.
Only Vibhavadi, Bumrungrad hospitals offered direct booking for Thais, but only if they were already patients there. MedPark has a registration page for Thais over 18. Bumrungrad said it would register foreigners who are already existing patients and hold Thai national ID cards.
That may be due to the need to confirm eligibility requirements. Expat comedian Olivia Gilmore said she was able to register using the app Saturday using her Thai social security card number.
Reached for comment today, she said that after accepting her information, the app acknowledged the hospital she goes to and the health conditions that make her eligible. Gilmore said she’d heard from other people who’ve attempted to register since Saturday who said the app required them to enter information from a national ID card.
I GOT A VACCINE APPOINTMENT IN THAILAND, MAYBE YOU CAN TOO: A THREAD
— OMG (@OMGincognito) May 1, 2021
Not everyone at the top has agreed on whether the vaccination campaign will be universal. The task force has repeatedly said it will be; the Health Ministry earlier this week said that citizens would have priority.
According to the task force, the first free jabs are to begin in June, regardless of nationality. More than 1.4 million people have registered using the Mor Phrom smartphone app (Android/iOS), which went live Saturday.
Those willing to buy their way through the bureaucracy won’t have much luck either, at least off the black market. All of the 12 hospitals contacted today said they could not offer commercial services as the government doesn’t allow private entities to import their own vaccine supply.
Vibhavadi said its alternative vaccine campaign for people to reserve imported Moderna doses was shut down yesterday by the authorities. Meanwhile, Bumrungrad said it is seeking to import vaccines and is in discussions with the government over it.
Ed. note: After this story was published, a task force spokesperson said that the direct registration options promoted were still in development.