Grapevine: Foreigners last – July 30, 2021


Welcome vaccinations
Ban Sue vaccination center in Bangkok has proved to be a lifeline for many expats. Earlier this month, a scheme was started whereby Thais and foreigners over 75 years could walk-in and receive their first jab of Astra Zeneca. At first many farang were incredulous, but the system worked, and most efficiently. The whole experience was usually over in a couple of hours. A passport and proof of address in Thailand were the only pre-requisites. A blood pressure test on site insisted that the reading was 180/100 or under. A very, very generous maximum figure.

A spot of confusion
Ambiguities soon crept in. A few elderly farang, but not yet 75, managed to get vaccinated before the loophole was closed: nobody under 75 allowed! Then there was the issue of the “carer” if any, either Thai or foreigner. A few carers of working age were included in the program before that loophole was shut down too: carers had to be 75-plus too. Usually anyway.

Bangkok or nationwide
In mid-July, the Ban Sue authorities announced that foreigners aged 60 and above could obtain the same treatment. But this time the rules were different. The applicant had to live in Bangkok or one of the surrounding provinces (thus excluding Chonburi), a rule that had not applied to the 75-plus initiative which was nationwide.

Prior registration
And this time applicants had to register online: no walk-in opportunities. The website also warned applicants that they must be virginal, that is not having received a jab at Ban Sue or anywhere. They were told the system could identify queue jumpers, people who wanted their second shot sooner than their invitation stated.

Myriad schemes
Confusion notwithstanding, Ban Sue has done an outstanding job in maybe 3,000 old and aged foreigners getting vaccinated (first jab) when they had begun to despair. There have been at least 10 attempts to open registration for foreigners, most of which appear to have crumbled into dust. Remember the first Mor Prom or The Doctor is Ready. He wasn’t. In order to have a fair chance of vaccination, you really needed to have a work permit or be a permanent resident.

Individual hospitals have lists
Some hospitals, mostly in the private sector, have advertised registration procedures for foreigners, sometimes asking for a deposit. Initially, these advertising campaigns seem to have been marketing exercises to assess the likely demand. Many of those registered have been advised that stocks of their favourite vaccine, usually Moderna, might not arrive until late this year or even next.

Embassies’ patchy response
Some diplomatic missions announced schemes to vaccinate their citizens, with France leading the pack. These schemes usually, not invariably, involved registering in a very narrow time-span before the lists were closed. The British embassy, no surprises, stuck firmly to the London government’s view that they could not become directly involved or they might have to vaccinate expats in 200 other countries as well.

Effects of the travel lockdown
Most of the schemes, not all, require foreigners to travel to Bangkok to a vaccination center. Meanwhile, Thai authorities are doing their best to discourage travel particularly if it involves inter-provincial routes. Daytime road checkpoints so far have been far fewer than threatened. In practice, there have been very few reports of foreigners trying to get to a center being turned away at road blocks, even if their written evidence was non-existent.

The farang experience
The vaccination game, for most foreigners, has been and remains a challenging experience. Many of the elderly are not heroes in the use of information technology to say the least. These days you need to be adept at handling Facebook, Twitter and the rest and have a nose for detecting reliable information from nonsense. Not always easy.