Some governments vaccinate the people indiscriminately. No matter the race, creed, breed, or citizenship, if the person is within their national borders, they are treated equally in the vaccination drive against COVID-19. In some countries, like the United States, they even vaccinate tourists.
Some vaccination strategies are straightforward. For example, there’s a database of everyone in the country. Make a list categorizing by age group. The oldest people are the riskiest. The youngest people have the least risks. Go down the list and vaccinate everyone. Of course, not everything is sunshine and rainbow, but at least from the policy perspective, inequality isn’t an issue, and a whole lot of mess is avoided. And the vaccine is free for everyone.
The policy doesn’t have anything to do with kindness or compassion. It’s simply being smart.
COVID-19 doesn’t care about your race, creed, breed, or nationality, whether you are a poo-yai” (social superior) or a poo-noi (social inferior). Therefore, vaccination shouldn’t care either. After all, the purpose is to create herd immunity as quickly as possible and allow the country to recover socially and economically as soon as possible.
Thailand’s vaccination strategy, however, offers a different narrative, one that exposes social inequality and simple-minded incompetency. The two most recent issues are these.
The recently launched website Thailandintervac.com allows foreign residents aged over 60 or those suffering from some underlying diseases to register for vaccination. Registration time is between noon and 3pm each day. Unfortunately, if you have a foreign friend who tried to register, you likely have a horror story to tell.
Never mind that just about every app (and there have been so many apps) launched by the government is problematic. There should just be one policy, vaccinate all from the riskiest group downward while saving enough for emergency usage, such as if there’s a cluster exploding somewhere.
But of course, just as we have to have so many apps, we also have to divide people. Thais go over here. Foreigners go over there and have to wait longer. COVID-19 may not care about your passport, but we do.
Meanwhile, a couple of days ago in Bangpoo District, Samut Prakarn Province, inequality leered its ugly head.
A video went viral on social media, showing health officials escorting people in civil servant uniform to the second floor of the health center while “commoners” queued up to register for vaccination downstairs. The people downstairs jeered and booed, “VIPs! VIPs! VIPs!” Moments later, more VIPs were escorted up but in civilian clothes.
The people asked the health officials downstairs what’s going on. The General Prawit Wongsuwan-inspired reply was, “We don’t know.”
Reporters asked the District Office chief, the reply was also General Prawit-inspired, “I don’t know.”
Finally, the health center gave an official explanation.
Those people work in government departments that provide service to the people. They don’t have time to queue up and register like the people because their jobs are urgent. Therefore, they have to get the vaccine before the people so they can hurry back to the jobs serving the people.