Vaccine tourism: Recently, reports surfaced that a tour operator located in Dubai was offering a package tour going from Delhi to Moscow for Rs 1.3 lakh, which would cover a 24-day tour including two shots of Sputnik V, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Russia. The tour also stated that in the 20 days between the two doses, the tourists would get to sight-see several places across the country. The package was available on Arabian Nights Tours website, but soon after the reports surfaced, it disappeared, according to a report in IE.
A travel agency in Delhi also followed suit, saying that they were considering offering such a vaccine package to Russia, even as several official constraints need to be sorted out, like flights operating between India and Russia, as well as the issue of Visa. While some tour operators might be hoping to offer similar packages, the report cited Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) senior member Subhash Goyal as saying that these packages are not possible currently due to the restrictions imposed by several countries on travellers from India due to the second wave of coronavirus. But Goyal added that such packages can be considered by operators upon the easing of such restrictions.
Vaccine tourism explained
San Marino, a small European country, last week allowed a group of four Latvians as its first vaccine tourists, after the group for a whopping 26 hours in a van to reach the country. The group became the first ones to utilise the Sputnik V vaccine holiday package being offered by the country. Moreover, if reports are to be believed then Russia as well as Maldives also seem to be developing programmes that would let tourists from abroad to get vaccinated while visiting the respective countries. Now, similar programmes also seem to be surfacing in the US.
In India, the phrase ‘vaccine tourism’ emerged and caught up in late 2020 after several travel agencies were reported to be offering tour packages to the US and also offering vaccine doses there.
Apart from this, reports have also said that South Africans are going to Zimbabwe, while South Americans and Canadians are heading to the US to get vaccine shots. Many travel agencies in Europe are also looking to offer package tours to Russia for Sputnik V shots.
Indians and vaccine tourism
Meanwhile, the IE report cited Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel as saying that Indians might not need to go elsewhere for vaccination because all the eligible citizens would have been vaccinated by the end of 2021, and at reasonable rates at that.
Despite his statement though, people are getting more and more attracted to the concept of vaccine tourism, with many people who had gone to Dubai just before the ban on international flights was put into place being reported to having been vaccinated in the UAE.
This concept is also gaining popularity in countries where there is either a short supply of vaccines or a restriction on some groups from getting inoculated. But there are very few countries which are not restricting the vaccine jabs to their citizens, including Russia, Zimbabwe, the US, Slovakia, etc, the report stated.
However, presently, people can go to another country and get vaccinated if the air travel to that country is permitted.