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Native Clevelanders living overseas struggle to find COVID-19 vaccines

Push underway to increase access for expatriates
Thailand vaccines
Posted at 7:42 PM, Aug 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-02 06:21:57-04

CLEVELAND — While the push continues to increase the COVID-19 vaccination rate in the United States, some U.S. citizens are urging lawmakers to make the vaccine available outside its borders for Americans living abroad.

For Peggy Creveling, who grew up in Brecksville but lives in Thailand, the search continues for any COVID-19 vaccine.

“The rollout here has been quite confusing,” she said. “Now, we’re under a lot more restrictions, curfews and they’re trying very hard to get vaccinations going and there just aren’t enough to go around.”

Right now, nearly 70% of adults in the United States have received at least one dose, whereas about 22% of the population in Thailand has received at least one dose. About 5-6% of the population have received two doses.

A closer look at the data shows Thailand is seeing a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths that began in April and hasn’t slowed down. Popular roads once filled with tourists are now empty and barren, says Ed Knuth, an American studies teacher in Thailand.

“Right now it’s the worst it’s ever been,” Knuth, a Lyndhurst native, said. “We are in a tragic situation for this country. It's bad and it is getting worse every day.”

“Pre-COVID, at 4 p.m. on a Friday, this street would have been jam-packed with tourists, food stalls, trinket sellers, etc,” Ed Knuth said. “Very drab day but maybe that captures the mood of this area right now.”

Through his work, Knuth received his first AstraZeneca shot in early June and admits he’s one of the lucky ones, while thousands of other American citizens, who also pay U.S. taxes, are unable to protect themselves from COVID-19.

“When you’re an American citizen, you’re an American citizen no matter where you live,” Knuth said.

“We have obligations that we have to fulfill to our country and it would be great if our country would reciprocate in some way,” Creveling added.

News 5 pressed lawmakers, including Senator Sherrod Brown, about this issue, especially given an estimated 9 million U.S. citizens live overseas.

“Somebody getting sick in Thailand or Taiwan can affect the whole world and the outbreak and this illness,” Brown said.

Brown joined with two dozen colleagues in the Senate and sent a letter urging the state department to offer vaccines to expatriates.

On Sunday, the Thai government informed the U.S. Embassy that it has opened a new website for U.S. citizens and other expatriates to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The website launch comes just days after the U.S. State Department completed delivering an estimated 1.5 million Pfizer vaccine doses that were donated to Thailand.

As of right now, it does not appear any of those doses are specifically allocated to Americans living abroad.

“It’s a long slow process here,” she said.