Pattaya’s expat jab hunters: is the long wait nearly over?

Pattaya’s elderly retiree population has not figured in any vaccination opportunities until today.

Firstly came the fake vaccination news. Pattaya expats were told on social media to turn up at Pattaya Sports Stadium for their free first jab alongside the locals. That nonsense even led to a disclaimer by City Hall. Another mischief maker on the internet claimed that any foreigner in Pattaya could register on the web portal Pattaya Always Ready which doesn’t exist no matter how frantically you search Google.

When it comes to farang vaccination, it has always been a question of who or what you are. Government spokesman Natapanu Nopakun has now put that into perspective. If you are a foreign diplomat or represent an international organization you will already be on the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s list and can now register with official jabbing begins on June 7 although it has been going on in two Bangkok hospitals for weeks.

Deserted Pattaya is scheduled to reopen on October 1, provided 70 percent of the Thai and foreign local population is vaccinated.

Ed’s note: clicking on leads to a placeholder that says only, “The vaccination appointment through this website is for embassy staff, consulates, international organizations and their families only. If you are identified that you are not the aforementioned staff, the vaccination appointment will be canceled. Please present the employee card at the registration site.” The site contains no further information or links.

Other priority foreign groupings are foreign students in higher education and those with official work permits: mainly teachers, restauranteurs and technology experts. They have their own routes to a first jab through registration with the appropriate government ministry or with business organizations or via a personal network. In fact at least 200 Pattaya-based individuals in these categories have already had their first jab.

But, of course, most farang expats aren’t in any of those favoured groups. They are the spouses of Thai citizens, retirees, permanent residents, investors and a mixed-bag of “Covid visa extenders” who are supposed to be “stuck” in Thailand and were recently cleared until late September 2021. The biggest single category comprises retirees on one year extensions of stay, said to number around 15,000 in Chonburi province.

Thai authorities say the serious vaccination program begins on June 7.

They are clearly seen by the authorities as a non-priority sector. Many have tried to register with a variety of official but short-lived Thai apps, even trying to use their yellow registration book or pink card residency as alternatives to the 13-digit Thai ID card. A few managed initially to scrape past the net before being told of an “indefinite delay” in the procedure. Regular and social media erupted with complaints.

Others, mainly retirees, bombarded the public and private hospitals locally to try and get on a registration list. Mostly they were told it was fake news and sent away. One or two hospitals did take names, but only as a marketing exercise to assess demand. It had nothing to do with registering for an actual shot. The largest private hospital in the area even had to employ extra telephone staff to deal with frustrated callers.

But the Covid-19 Situation Administration, the government’s key health committee, has now stated that all remaining foreign residents should register from June 7, ahead of the massive rollout of AstraZeneca doses to supplement Sinovac stocks. A royal order, signed by the king’s sister, Princess Chulabhorn, will allow a Bangkok medical facility that carries her name to begin importing alternative vaccines for distribution.

The newest priority in the farang population are the over 60s, or those in-health, which accounts for most retirees anyway. They are told to register personally at the hospital which has their records beginning on June 7 but without a definite date for inoculation. On the evening of June 3, two Pattaya hospitals said they were still waiting for instructions from a “higher authority”.

With Pattaya hoping to “reopen” to fully vaccinated international tourists in October, there’s an incredible amount of arm jabbing to be accomplished if the host population is to be 70 percent fully vaccinated in barely four months. The latest slogan “Pattaya Will Win” is about to be put to a mighty test.