Vaccine vacations: Countries cashing in on quest for COVID jabs

Monash Lens

People’s search for quick fixes for their unmet health needs has a long history.

  • Alan Petersen

    Professor of Sociology

It should be of little surprise, then, to learn that a growing number of people are crossing borders to receive COVID-19 vaccinations unavailable to them in their home countries or states because they’re not in a priority group – a healthcare worker or an older person – or because of delays to vaccine rollout where they live.

This so-called COVID-19 vaccine tourism has quickly evolved into a thriving global industry.

With countries eager to attract tourists, and many individuals keen to travel following national lockdowns – which may only be possible with a vaccine passport – it didn’t take long before companies began to offer packaged tours that include a jab.

Vaccine tourism first caught public attention in December 2020, when it was reported that Indian tour operators were considering trips to New York and London to transport guests to countries where they could secure a COVID-19 vaccination.

A globe of the world and a person holding a syringe.

According to one report, the package, at $US1777 per person, would enable travellers to stay in isolation for a requisite period, then visit a health centre for a Pfizer BioNTech vaccination, which would be included in the package. Tour operators also considered offering trips to Russia for the Sputnik vaccine.

Travellers by the numbers

Reliable figures for the number of travellers are hard to come by, but reports suggest a strong demand. In the US, in a number of states, notably Florida, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Arizona and US Virgin Islands, tens of thousands of Americans from other states are believed to have been at least partially vaccinated, some travelling specifically to get their shots.

One business, the London-based Knightsbridge Circle, which markets itself as “an exclusive travel and lifestyle service”, charging members a £25,000 annual fee, is reported to have had 2000 applications for membership since the deal was advertised.

One article claims that the business is able to organise access to China’s Sinopharm vaccine

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