It’s been more than a year since the first case of the novel coronavirus was reported. After months under lockdown and millions of cases, the world is celebrating the approval of various vaccines. With another strain now spreading, the pandemic is far from over, but countries are making headway in overcoming this virus and travelers are adapting.
Since various vaccines have been launched, they have been changing the opinion around travel, but there’s a whole new concept that’s become part of the discussion: Vaccine tourism. Vaccine tourism means visiting another country or state to get a vaccine not available in the particular country. Right now, vaccine tourism is all about the COVID-19 vaccine, which has had a slow rollout in many countries and isn’t yet available worldwide.
In the US and other countries that have the vaccine, some populations are getting priority, such as the elderly and health care workers. But some people who don’t fall into these groups have been wanting to cut the line by travelling to other countries to get vaccinated.
When the U.K. approved its first vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech, Indian travel agents started circulating tourism packages with flights, accommodations, meals, and opportunistically, visits to healthcare centers to get a shot. In December, an Indian travel agency said that they were taking registrations of Indians with a valid 10-year US visa for their COVID-19 vaccine package—a four-day trip from Mumbai to New York City, with a coronavirus shot included.
Until now, there are no official arrangements in place with foreign authorities to ensure these “vaccine tourists” get the experience they booked. Equally concerning are the ethics of people with money or connections, visiting another state or country to get a Covid vaccine, while others wait for their turn as per their country’s guidelines.
Some countries are now actively preventing vaccine tourism. UK has set rules for those getting vaccinated so that other people don’t jump the line, U.S. has state-wise regulations for getting vaccinated and states like Florida are cracking down. The Indian government has not recognized ‘vaccine tours’ yet and has not released a statement regarding the same. Since the authenticity of these tours are under question, it is also not clear whether a medical visa is required for this.