BANGKOK, Oct.5 (Reuters) – The Thai Red Cross on Tuesday launched a vaccination campaign for migrant workers, one of the country’s most vulnerable groups that has been largely left behind in the wider vaccination rollout against COVID-19.
About 300 workers have received their first doses as well as a small number of undocumented refugees as part of a campaign scheduled to run until the end of the month and initially targeting 5,000 workers.
“The more migrant workers we can immunize, the better it is for the Thai people as well,” said Tej Bunnag, general secretary of the Thai Red Cross.
Official government data shows that around 2.35 million migrants have a work permit in Thailand, but the International Organization for Migration estimates that there are over 4 to 5 million migrant workers.
Many live in cramped quarters in industries such as construction, manufacturing and seafood. Their lack of access to health care has made vaccination difficult.
“We are so happy to be safe now … We all came in a large group because we are afraid of dying,” said Pesan, 35, who has lived in Thailand for over 20 years.
“Finally, there is someone who is helping us,” he said.
The Thai government, which has not released vaccination data for migrant workers, earlier this year closed hundreds of construction sites and barred workers from leaving their camps for a month following COVID-outbreaks. 19 in Bangkok.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says the Thai Red Cross has set aside 10,000 of the 100,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine donated by the Chinese Red Cross – enough to vaccinate completely 5,000 migrant workers.
The remainder of the lot would be allocated to other vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, the IFRC told Reuters.
The Thai Red Cross said in July it had purchased 1 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which it planned to administer to medical staff and vulnerable groups and sell to organizations across the country for general distribution.
This shipment has not yet arrived in the country.
Reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; edited by Jane Wardell
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