U.S. embassy in Thailand rejects citizens' appeal for vaccines

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People wait to receive the first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as Thailand start a mass inoculation at a gymnasium inside the Siam paragon Shopping center, Bangkok, Thailand June 7, 2021. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo

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BANGKOK, June 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. embassy in Thailand on Wednesday turned down a direct appeal to fly in coronavirus vaccines for its citizens but said the U.S. government was taking actions to boost vaccine access worldwide.

The embassy in a message to its citizens in Thailand said the state department could not provide vaccines to the millions of Americans abroad, but would advocate for equitable access locally.

The message comes after four U.S. citizens' groups last month wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking for Thailand to be made a pilot project for vaccinating Americans abroad, who should have the same rights as at home.

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U.S. embassies have posted information about local vaccinations on their websites, saying the U.S. government does not provide them.

Thailand's mass vaccination drive, which includes foreigners, started this month amid its worst coronavirus outbreak so far. A record 51 deaths were announced on Wednesday.

So far, about 2.3 million people in Thailand have been fully vaccinated.

France's embassy on Wednesday started vaccinating its citizens in Thailand. China has donated one million vaccine doses to Thailand, with 400,000 earmarked for its nationals.

The need to vaccinate elderly Americans who may be unable to travel home was "paramount", Paul Risley, a U.S. citizen and chair of Democrats Abroad, told Reuters.

Vaccinating American citizens would help alleviate the burden for Thailand, Risley said.

The U.S. government will release seven million vaccine doses to countries in Asia, including Thailand, the embassy said.

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Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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