Hotels are collaborating with hospitals in India offering vaccine packages and India’s government is cracking down.
- Vaccine tourism usually involves international travel to a country where vaccines are more available. This is an instance of domestic vaccine tourism.
- That’s not really new – there were a couple of counties in Texas which lifted all eligibility restrictions for vaccines early on because residents there weren’t showing up to get shots. People traveled to these counties from all over the country.
People traveling from one place to another to get a shot were indirectly paying a premium price for vaccination – their time and travel costs – rather than paying the vaccine provider. Here hospitals are working with a third party, hotels, to capture some of what people are willing to spend anyway. They’re bundling the goods, and that makes it harder to separate how much you’re paying for an included bath robe versus for a life-saving jab.
The Centre [national government] has asked states and Union Territories to initiate legal or administrative action against private institutions which are offering packages for COVID-19 vaccination in collaboration with hotels, noting that this is in violation of prescribed guidelines.
In a letter to all states and UTs, Additional Secretary to the health ministry, Manohar Agnani, said it has come to the notice of the ministry that some private hospitals have been offering vaccination packages with hotels, against the guidelines issued for the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme.
…NDTV has reported that amidst this overall shortage of vaccines in the country, luxury hotels’ packages “which include a comfortable stay, healthy breakfast, dinner and wifi, along with vaccination by experts from a renowned hospital and clinical consultation on request” have come in the face of substantial criticism on social media.
As India-both rural and urban- struggles to get vaccinated, luxury hotels in India announce vaccination package with a range to choose from. pic.twitter.com/IXZLwiktgp
— Neha Dixit (@nehadixit123) May 29, 2021
India has seen between 400 million and 700 million people infected with Covid and there may have been millions of Covid-related deaths there. Less than 4% of the country has been fully vaccinated, though around 10% have received one shot.
Tyler Cowen observes,
Obviously running vaccines through hotels adds explicit pricing and tends to allocate more vaccines to the wealthy (on average the relatively productive), and to boost total vaccine supply. So economists will see more merit in this idea than the Indian government does.
India is both supply-constrained and also faces challenges getting doses into arms. On the one hand, efforts like these mean wealthier citizens likely get higher priority. On the other hand, more people get vaccinated more quickly (which helps to quell the pandemic for everybody) and more resources become available to hospitals which helps both treating the sick and securing more doses. That’s distasteful, but is really just a symptom of the Indian government’s failed vaccine rollout.