Slow vaccine roll-out forcing Swedes in Thailand to go home

Photo: Christian Emmer | Credit: emmer.com.ar

Many Swedish residents in Thailand are in the vulnerable group and still they face great difficulties getting the Corona vaccine. Sven Arne Hedell, 71, is trying to get the Swedish authorities to send vaccines to Swedish people abroad.

“We are paying full tax in Sweden, but we still don’t have any rights,” Sven says.


The vaccine chaos is the straw that broke the camel’s back for Bo Walling at 64. He is now moving home to Sweden after 19 years in Thailand.

Thailand is severely suffering from the coronavirus at the moment. After handling the pandemic well in its beginning phase with low infection numbers, the disease is now spreading widely, and the death toll is rising fast. According to the Thai government, all foreigners living in Thailand should be vaccinated. Meanwhile, there is a great shortage of vaccines In Thailand, and for the thousands of Swedes living in the country – many of them seniors – it is difficult to get a vaccine shot.

Sven Arne Hedell, a Swedish resident in Thailand for eight years, describes the situation being an expat Swede as challenging.

“The average age in our group is alarmingly high. In the city where I live, we are a couple of hundred Swedes, and among them I am one of the youngsters. Everyone is trying desperately to register for a vaccine. There is an app for foreigners who want to sign up for the vaccine queue but it crashed after an hour,” Sven Hedell says.

The decision has been made

Sven has pushed for the Swedish authorities to help Swedish people abroad by providing vaccines for them through the embassies like France and the USA have done. But as of now the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs  is referring its citizens to the local Thai system

“Sweden, which has a surplus of five million vaccines, should be able to help us pensioners with a couple of thousand vaccines, right? I’m sure we can arrange distribution and the jabs themselves with a private hospital. We can pay for the service, as long as we have the vaccines at hand,” Sven Hedell says.

Isn’t this something you should expect when you choose to move out?

“That’s an opinion. But the question is to what degree it is a country’s responsibility to care for its citizens,” Sven replies.

The vaccine question is currently one of the most dominating issues for the Swedish embassy in Thailand. But their message is clear:

“It is a decision that Sweden will not be vaccinating Swedes who have left Sweden to live abroad. These Swedes will have to be a part of the Thai vaccination system. We have guarantees from Thai representatives on this,” Lina Eidmark, embassy counselor at the Swedish embassy in Thailand, says. 

What are the reactions?

“It is clear that we are getting some panicked reactions. Many are worried and you can understand that. There is an extensive spread of infection here and many Swedes who live here are a little older. Understanding how and when the Thai vaccination program is rolled out may not be easy but we are trying to explain it as well as we can,” says Lina Eidmark.

Sven Arne Hedell has given up hope of being vaccinated in Thailand himself. Next week, he and his wife, Chawee, 53, will go to Sweden in order to get their vaccines sorted.

“It would be much better environmentally to send a box of vaccines than for a lot of people to fly back and forth,” says Sven Arne Hedell.

“Asking too much”

The past year has made Bo Wallin, 64, a resident of Pattaya, think about life. 

“The pandemic changed everything. Most people stay at home and so the street life is gone. It’s boring and monotonous. I like to go down to the beach and sit there on a deck chair, but it’s not the same. Everything is closed and deserted. I like people. This is a pure nightmare for me,” says Bo Wallin.

The vaccine chaos was the tipping point. After 19 years in Thailand, he has decided to move home to Sweden. 

“It is not one thing but several things combined that have caused me to have had enough. Among other things, I miss the seasons after all the years in a tropical climate,” says Bo Wallin.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has handled the pandemic well.

“They send information about Covid and restrictions and they have told us in clear text that they will not vaccinate Swedes, but that it is something we have to sort out ourselves.

To demand the Swedish state to vaccinate Swedes living in Thailand, I think is to ask too much,” says Bo Wallin. 

About Lasse Sandholdt

ScandAsia Journalist • Scandinavian Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Lasse Sandholdt

3 Comments on “Slow vaccine roll-out forcing Swedes in Thailand to go home”

  1. People with the same age as Sven, 70 – 79 years, has a 8% risk of die if he get the Covid-19 disease, numbers here are based on the Swedish data on how many who has got Covid-19 in different ages and how big part who died by the disease in that grop.

  2. With a survival rate of 99.7 percent, Sven and his Swedish chums should not be too concerned about the “deadly” virus. Personally, I would rather take my chances with COVID rather than become a guinea pig for experimental gene therapy injections linked to soaring numbers of deaths and serious injuries worldwide and with totally unknown medium to long term consequences.
    The most sensible course for us older folk is to ensure we eat healthy food, soak up vitamin D from the sun by exercising outdoors, take zinc and vitamin C supplements – and stock up with some Ivermectin just in case. Stress has been proven to lower the immune system – so stop reading the COVID fear porn pumped out by the mass media and curl up with a good book instead.
    Stay happy and healthy!

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