Government Warns Thais About Free COVID-19 Vaccines Through US Tourism

The Foreign Ministry has warned Thais seeking to get free COVID-19 vaccines from tour packages to the United States to contact governmental agencies before paying as not all states offer the service.

Spokesman Tanee Sangrat said Tuesday that buyers should check the regulations in the states they plan to visit before making decisions as the situation was still fluid.

Under the free shots program, people aged 16 or older who live in or have legally entered the United States can request a COVID-19 vaccine for free. However, the procedures and criteria may vary in each state.

In some areas, jab recipients must have permanent residences or jobs, he said.

Nonetheless, in some states, tourists only need to show their passports in order to get vaccinated. Some tour companies in Thailand may have been taking advantage of the announcement to entice people who want to get vaccinated to buy tour packages, especially to states where travelers with temporary visas can receive the shots for free.

Mr. Tanee explained that many states in the United States had taken steps to prevent vaccine tourism.

The governor of Florida and the health department of Alabama recently told the media that the vaccines would only be administered to people with permanent residency. Furthermore, it is known that the criteria for vaccine distribution can change suddenly.

Therefore, Thais who purchase vaccine packages may run the risk of not getting the jab and being denied entry by the US immigration.

People should check with Thai government agencies before paying for the trip. In the kingdom, they can contact the Consular Affairs Department, Foreign Ministry, by calling 02-572-8442 or through the Thai Consular mobile app.

In the United States, Thais can contact the Thai Embassy in Washington DC or the consulates in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.

These are the contact numbers for each one: Thai Embassy in Washington DC, (+1 202-684-8493), Thai Consulate in Los Angeles (+1 323-962-9574), Thai Consulate in Chicago (+1 312- 664-3129), Thai Consulate in New York (+1 212-754-1770, ext 304, 311 and 313).

The tour packages’ popularity shows how desperate some Thais are to get vaccinated amid the third wave of the pandemic.

The government started the registration process to inoculate the first group of people who are not health workers, which includes people aged 60 and over. However, vaccination will not begin until June and younger people have to wait until July to register.