About four months ago I wrote that we should expect to see vaccine tourism, with doses available in places like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
That was before we had effectiveness data on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and before the U.S. and U.K. had approved any shots. For all of the failures of the U.S. rollout, it’s far more robust than much of the world. So vaccine tourism has been a bigger phenomenon elsewhere.
One place that’s markedly behind in vaccinations is Canada. The country’s China deal fell through and they didn’t invest quickly enough in their own manufacturing capacity. President Biden won’t allow vaccines to be exported to Canada until all Americans have had shots.
The CEO of the fund that manages investments for Canada Pension Plan, a part of Canada’s social security, took a trip to the U.A.E. and got his shot, presumably the highly effective Sinopharm inactivated virus vaccine. This became public, and he’s been forced to resign.
He says that he “followed all travel protocols related to his role as head of the pension fund” while traveling to Dubai. However a Finance Ministry spokesperson calls the trip “very troubling” when the Canadian government is telling people “now is not the time to travel abroad.”
This is dumb. The trip isn’t the Mayor of Austin telling people to stay home for the holidays in a live video from a timeshare in Cabo, or the Mayor of Denver telling people to stay home as he boarded a United Airlines flight (nor is it Ted Cruz taking his family across the border in search of a better life, like so many others before him).
The concern with travel abroad is that someone might become infected by the virus, including a new variant, and bring it back with them when they returned. But in this case the CEO was being vaccinated and the inactivated virus vaccine is highly likely not just to protect from symptoms but also infection (and spread). He’ll be less of a risk than most Canadians when he returns to the country. Getting vaccinated is a public benefit, not just a private one.
Furthermore, he’s now one less dose that Canada needs to provide for, meaning one more Canadian will get vaccinated more quickly. In places where vaccines aren’t widely available yet, three cheers for vaccine tourism!