Stateless people lagging behind slow Covid-19 vaccination in Thailand

By Noel Caballero and Chanya Khamkhananon

Bangkok, Jul 8 (EFE).- Thailand’s slow Covid-19 vaccination campaign as it faces its worst wave of the pandemic is leaving stateless people behind, according to a local NGO, though authorities say they are working to inoculate everyone regardless of their legal status.

“The main problem of vaccination for stateless people is the registration process,” given that by not appearing in official records, they lack access to public service, according to Weera Yoorum, director in northern Thailand for NGO The Mirror Foundation.

Some 800,000 stateless people live in Thailand according to official data, despite being born and having lived in the country for generations, the vast majority from tribes in the north and northeast.

The government, which is currently managing the worst wave of infections and deaths during the entire pandemic, has implemented an erratic vaccination campaign, with repeated failures in the registration system. It has lacked a clear information campaign, with numerous mixed messages from authorities.

According to data published Thursday, about 4.5 percent of the almost 70 million inhabitants of the country have received the complete regimen with the jab manufactured by Sinovac or AstraZeneca.

Weera said that according to unofficial data, given the difficulty verifying due to the lack of records, that less than 1 percent of the stateless population in Thailand has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Department of Disease Control said there were problems in hospitals accepting unidentified people such as stateless persons, but that they have overcome this obstacle.

Speaking to EFE, a source from the department said stateless or undocumented immigrants already have access to the inoculation program, although he admitted that the problem now is the lack of sufficient supply of vaccines.

To increase the pace of the campaign, authorities will allow private hospitals to import and use vaccines from other pharmaceutical companies such as Moderna in coming months, in exchange for about $ 100 for both doses.

Some stateless people with sufficient purchasing power have already booked the vaccine in private hospitals, but the vast majority depend on the help of NGOs or associations.

The Mirror Foundation had to mediate to arrange the Monday vaccination of a stateless teacher who works in a school where they collaborate.

Another example Weera gave is that of a stateless person infected with Covid-19 thrown out of the apartment he rented in the historic center of Bangkok by the landlord as a result of his illness and was then denied assistance from authorities.

“Thai officials said that at that time there was no bed available (in the hospital), or that they needed some documents before they could proceed to help,” says the activist about the difficulties that stateless people systematically face.

At the end of June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees warned in a report of the risk posed by countries and the control of the pandemic to leave stateless people out of vaccination plans, and demanded a greater effort by governments to include everyone.

“As many stateless people already face widespread exclusion and marginalization, barriers to access must be addressed and their situation must be given special attention,” said Gillian Triggs, the commission’s Head of International Protection.

Weera called on the Bangkok government to facilitate the inclusion of all people in the vaccination because “we all have the same risk of becoming infected and spreading Covid-19, so we should all have the same access to the vaccine.” EFE


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