A Laotian villager receives a vaccination shot at a village in Luang Prabang on May 4, 2012. (AFP / Roslan Rahman)

Online posts falsely claim Thai tourists can get free Covid-19 vaccines in neighbouring Laos

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Multiple online posts have shared a claim that Thai citizens can get inoculated against Covid-19 with their vaccine of choice when they visit as tourists in neighbouring Laos. This claim is false: as of May 18, 2021 foreign tourists were not permitted to enter Laos; the country only administers the Chinese-made Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine to those eligible for jabs.

The Thai-language claim was shared in this Facebook post on May 3, 2021.

It reads in part: “Whoever wishes to get a Pfizer jab abroad but has insufficient funds to travel far, you can try to go to Laos.

“They see how Thai nationals don’t want to take Sinovac, but the Thai government refuses to import Pfizer, so they announced that tourists are able to receive free vaccinations in Laos, with a choice of Pfizer, Astra [Zeneca] Sputnik and Sinopharm.”

The misleading post links to a registration page for Covid-19 vaccination run by the Laos Ministry of Health.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on May 14, 2021

The claim circulated online as Thailand battles to contain a third wave of Covid-19 infections, AFP reported.

As of May 18, 2021, Thailand has recorded more than 111,000 Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Thailand's public health ministry reported it had administered more than 2.2 million vaccine doses to at-risk groups since February 28, 2021.

An identical claim was also shared here, here and here on Facebook; and here on Twitter.

The claim is false.

Closed to tourists 

Thailand’s public health ministry labeled the claim as “fake” in this statement posted on Facebook on May 4, 2021.

The statement reads in part: “Laos remains closed, and is not accepting the entry of tourists”

As of May 18, 2021 foreign tourists remain barred from visiting Laos.

‘Essential travellers’

This registration page for Covid-19 vaccination run by the Laos Ministry of Health states some foreign nationals are eligible for jabs but only those considered “essential travelers”.

Essential travelers are defined as: “Those currently in [Laos] at risk of acquiring infection outside the home country and reintroducing infection upon return to home country.

“This group includes migrant workers, international students, business people, diplomats, international organisations, aid workers, and others.”

A screenshot of the vaccine pre-registration website taken on May 14, 2021 with the definition highlighted

Chinese-made vaccines

A notice on the registration page also states that Laos is only administering Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines.

Those eligible for jabs cannot choose the vaccine brand they receive as claimed in the misleading posts.

The notice reads: “Before you pre-register, please be informed that only the Sinopharm vaccines (BBIBP-CorV) are currently available in the vaccination sites.”

A screenshot of the notice taken on May 14, 2021

The registration page bears the same notice as of May 17, 2021.