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Vaccine Tourism: What it is and Its Implications

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The long-awaited Covid 19 vaccine is finally here. Have you received your shot yet? If you haven't, it's probably because of one of these three reasons: Rollout rules and procedures(delays) Vaccine hesitancy Inaccessibility to the vaccine If the reason you have not been able to get your jab is not vaccine hesitancy, here is some good news. As long as you can afford it, you can jump the queue and get your shot as soon as you want, thanks to vaccine tourism.

What is Vaccine Tourism?

For centuries people have traveled for various reasons. For fun, for medical reasons, and also for learning purposes. With time, the tourism industry has evolved. Bringing into existence a long list of forms of tourism. These are named based on the purpose of the visit. They including:

  • Adventure tourism
  • Medical tourism
  • Religious tourism
  • Sex tourism
  • Sports tourism
  • Wildlife tourism, among others.

Who knew that our desperate quest for an end to the Covid 19 pandemic would introduce us to a new form of tourism?

It all started in December 2020. An Indian travel agency came up with a Covid 19 vaccine package to the UK and New York. The package included the coronavirus jab. Now other travel agencies are following in their footsteps.

If you visit another country to receive a vaccine because you can’t access it in your home county, that makes you a vaccine tourist. The recent discovery of the Covid 19 vaccine and its consequent scarcity has witnessed a sudden growth in this form of tourism.

Traveling for vaccines has become the new normal.

While most economies are struggling under the weight of this pandemic, others are thriving because of it. Since the vaccine policies are different in different regions, people who feel they are too far behind in the queue at home are now looking for faster options outside their local boundaries.

Remember when Covid 19 was taking root attacking each country at its own time? The countries which were attacked earlier by the virus would be victims of travel bans to those that were not affected at the time. But later on, the virus crept into those countries too. Now that we all have to learn to live with it, different countries are using the same pandemic to redeem themselves and woo their long-lost tourists back.

Global health and financial motivation are motivating some countries to offer the Covid 19 vaccine without any discrimination. For others, after catering to their population, what’s a better way to promote their tourism than to give their visitors a free Covid 19 vaccine?

Countries Where Tourists Have Access to the Covid 19 Vaccine

Barbados plans to obtain more doses of the vaccine by May 2021 to cater to everyone in the country regardless of their citizens. Barbados is likely to prioritize tourists already in the country, those visiting for the long-term, and the snowbirds.

Cuba is in phase 3 trial for its Covid 19 vaccine since March. It plans to offer the shot to all its visitors once those trials are over. This vaccine development has taken place under the watchful eye of the World Health Organization (WHO). The country plans to produce 100 million doses of the vaccine enough to cater to its population and its tourists and any country which may want to buy it.

In Dubai, the vaccine is a perk offered to motivate people to move and settle there for at least a year. The country has launched a one-year program targeted at digital professionals.

Mauritius is giving free visas for long-term stays as well as the Covid 19 vaccine. These visas will allow you to stay up to 12months with easy entry requirements. If you plan to take your Covid 19 jab in Mauritius, you can apply for a premium visa to enjoy these benefits.

The Implications of Vaccine Tourism

The whole concept of vaccine tourism may sound like a lifesaver, but what are its implications?
Before you book the next flight to Mauritius or Dubai, should you be concerned?

Vaccine tourism is not exactly legal, at least not yet.

What does that mean for you?

It means that you will have no legal redress if a travel agency does not deliver its promise. We are talking about every aspect of the package offered, including the shot itself.

Vaccine tourism in the real sense is a chance to “jump the queue”. If vaccines are allocated for residents and part-time residents but not foreigners, will you be pushing residents of your destination country out of the waiting queue?

For business executives, vaccine tourism has been termed as both unethical and bad for business. Senior officers who engage in have no regard for the less fortunate and could cost the companies they represent reputational damage and bad culture among employees.

Vaccine tourism will make people lose their faith in the fairness of the healthcare system. The healthcare system seems biased as it gives priority to the affluent and those with connections.
Since the vaccine does not take effect immediately, there are also health risks associated with the whole process of traveling from a different country.

Final Thoughts

The concept of vaccine tourism at face value is likely to feel like the right thing until you give it a critical analysis. But most people in desperation to run from the scathe of the virus will not stop to think if it’s right.

Vaccine tourism seems to offer access only to the wealthy and privileged who can easily hop on a plane and travel to a different country or city to get it. What about those who cannot afford to pay for a flight, let alone the accommodation required? Unfortunately, those who cannot afford it are the most susceptible.

If we are going to win the war against Covid 19, vaccine production is not enough. Proper allocation to ensure availability to those who need it is key.

So, before you jump on the next flight to get your Covid 19 vaccine, is it worth it?

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