Saturday, June 19, 2021

US citizens abroad beg embassies to provide Covid-19 shots for them

The US State Department last month said it had already shipped doses to embassies worldwide to vaccinate its diplomats and other employees.

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Americans living overseas are imploring Washington to send surplus Covid-19 shots to US embassies so they can get vaccinated in countries where the pace of inoculations is slow, reports Reuters.

Many of the estimated eight million Americans living abroad argue they should have the same right to a vaccine as US citizens back home.

The US vaccination drive covers all of the population and surplus doses are earmarked for donation to India and other nations.

“Vaccines could be provided to US citizens through US embassies and consulates, in particular as many are now re-opening for US citizen services,” said Marylouise Serrato, executive director of the advocacy group American Citizens Abroad.

The group last month wrote to the US Congress and the State Department saying overseas Americans who file taxes, as all US citizens must do wherever they live in the world, should have the same access to vaccines as US residents.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week the US government is focused on the safety of Americans around the world but is not now prepared to provide vaccines.

“We have not historically provided private healthcare for Americans living overseas, so that remains our policy,” Psaki told reporters.

Many Americans overseas are travelling home if they can to be vaccinated or waiting for the inoculation campaign in their countries of residence. But those living in places where vaccine rollouts are slower or where travel is difficult say they feel stuck.

US citizens’ groups in Thailand on May 6 wrote to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking for Thailand, which  is suffering a deadly third wave and still has no mass vaccination drive, to be made a pilot project for global vaccination of Americans abroad.

The US State Department last month said it had already shipped doses to embassies and consulates in 220 locations worldwide to vaccinate its diplomats and other employees.

The diplomatic distribution shows that the US government has the capacity to do the same for ordinary citizens, said expatriate groups.

“We are tax-paying, voting US citizens and we were promised that we would be eligible to be vaccinated by our government, and here we are being just forgotten,” said business owner Peter Fischbach, in Thailand for nearly 30 years.

He worries it may be weeks or months before he can get a shot in Thailand. His business obligations – plus Thailand’s strict two-week quarantine for people entering the country – make it impractical for him to return to the US to get his shot.

The US embassy in Bangkok declined Reuters’ request for comment.

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