Pattaya expats: what next after the second anti-Covid jab?

Vaccine passports could be the future of travel as Covid continues to spread worldwide.

Many of Pattaya’s foreign community have now been jabbed once or twice, or are waiting in the wings for appointment day. They are mostly elderly expats on retirement or marriage/family extensions of stay, with a smattering of work permit holders, foreign students, Elite card holders and the lucky permanent residents with their red police book.

After the second jab, they are given a certificate from the hospital or vaccination center with their personal details and a description of the vaccines used plus the dates administered. For the moment, that document may be sufficient, but both Thais and foreigners are being urged to register on the Mor Prom (Doctor is Ready) app. To do this, the certificate must contain a special 13 digit ID number, or the farang user will likely be unable able to register on the app. Some expats with a yellow residence card or a work permit or a QR code say that those alternative registration numbers will work, but others say those routes simply don’t succeed. The failsafe system is the post-jabs certificate. Welcome to Thailand.

The Mor Prom app may be important ahead as government regulations on entering public places become tighter. Already in Bangkok, some cinemas and malls are insisting on proof of vaccination prior to entry. Potential Sandbox areas, such as Pattaya, are likely to see more and more public-access facilities requiring evidence of vaccination. It may turn out to be more convenient to use the app rather than carrying around pieces of paper which, if they are photocopies, may not be accepted by gatekeepers.

For those thinking of travelling abroad, the Department of Disease Control (DDC) is issuing Covid-19 certificates of vaccination known informally as vaccine “passports.” The local office is located in the Ministry of Health building adjoining the fresh market area in overcrowded Naklua town center. This “passport” can be used as vaccination proof to exit and enter Thailand, but won’t necessarily be accepted by the country of destination. Each country has its own rules and regulations about recognizing jabs performed in Thailand, or anywhere else come to that. The DDC requires your passport and the original certificate received after the second jab. The cost is 50 baht.

A DDC spokesperson said that the “passport” must be presented again if a third or later jab is received to ensure it’s up to date. If the recipient’s passport number changes on renewal or loss, a new “passport” needs to be obtained. The Naklua office is open daily 8.30-11.30 and 13.00-15.30 (not weekends or public holidays) with a limit of 50 applications daily. That doesn’t seem to be a problem in these early days.

As regards Pattaya’s community of anti-vaxxers, vociferous on social media, the future is murky at best. Unless there is a substantiated medical reason for non-vaccination, the jabs could be required evidence for visa applications, renewals and extensions of stay within the next 12 months. In a call to the immigration hotline 1178, there was no confirmation, but it was revealed that the matter was “under consideration.” The Tourist Authority of Thailand is on record as agreeing with the concept of vaccination-for-all as the best way to market the country to foreign tourists in the years ahead. It’s called SFT (Safety First Tourism). Yet another acronym to keep tabs on.