Foreign Ministry cautions Thais about vaccine travel to the US

PHOTO: Traveling to the US to get vaccinated may or may not work. (via Flickr - Marco Verch)

While Covid-19 tourism may sound like an oxymoron, people travelling abroad in order to get vaccinated is a growing trend. But now Thailand’s Foreign Ministry is urging Thai people planning to travel to the United States to get a free Covid-19 vaccine to be cautious and do their homework. They stressed that rules vary from state to state, and not all states do give free vaccines to everyone, so travellers should confirm details before paying for such vaccine tourism packages.

They also warned that the situation is constantly changing and that Thai travellers should be check and recheck vaccine regulations in whatever state they plan to visit. The procedures vary from state to state but generally anyone over the age of 16 who lives in the US or has legally entered the country can be vaccinated for free. Some places may give a free vaccine to tourist just by showing their passport with legal stamps inside, but some states have additional criteria such as employment or permanent residents in the state.

Vaccine tourism may have a limited window of opportunity. While tour companies in Thailand are luring travellers with tour packages that include free Covid-19 vaccines by taking them to states that only require a temporary visa to get vaccinated, many states oppose vaccine tourism and are working to ban the practice. Alabama’s health department and Florida’s governor both recently declared that only permanent residents will be given vaccines in their states.

With Thailand’s weak vaccine roll out and limited choice of vaccine brands, and with a much more brutal third wave of Covid-19 throughout the country, people are getting desperate to procure an effective vaccine. Many are turning to private hospitals to pay for vaccines from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and more, but those jabs won’t be available for months with the government’s slow approval process. So those who can afford it are eyeing international vaccine travel or even moving abroad to get jabs.

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Tour packages to Californian cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Monterey for 7 nights that include room, breakfast, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been advertised to groups of 8 or more for 76,000 baht per person, or up to 175,000 baht per person for private two-person trips. Prices for these vaccine travel packages do not include airfare.

With the shifting rules and standards, Thailand’s Foreign Ministry is cautioning people that they may not get vaccinated on their vaccine travel or could possibly be denied entry by US immigration if the backlash against vaccine tourism continues to grow. Travellers are suggested to contact the Consular Affairs Department at 02-572-8442 or use the Thai Consular mobile app before booking their trip. They should also make contact with US agencies:

  • Thai Embassy in Washington DC at +1 202-684-8493
  • Thai Consulate in Los Angeles at +1 323-962-9574
  • Thai Consulate in Chicago at +1 312-664-3129
  • Thai Consulate in New York at +1 212-754-1770, ext 304, 311 and 313

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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