Travel Agencies Are Promoting Vaccine Tourism Packages

Two months ago I wrote that I expected vaccine tourism to become a trend in early 2021. The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine appears safe and is reportedly 79% effective. It’s approved now for general use in both the U.A.E. and China.

Between the BBIBP-CorV vaccine from state-owned Sinopharm and two other candidates, China has already vaccinated 4.5 million people. Dubai’s ruler took the BBIBP-CorV vaccine back on November 3.

The U.K. has already approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, though approval across Europe isn’t expected until at least February and it’s not expected to be approved in the U.S. until at least April. The U.K. is looking to vaccinate as many people as possible, following a ‘first dose’ strategy “to give at-risk groups one shot of vaccine, even if it means delaying the second dose.”

U.S. vaccinations have been slower than expected. A neighboring county to me in Texas got the vaccine December 23rd, and then closed down for Christmas. The U.S. declined to purchase doses of the Pfizer vaccine for the second quarter of 2021 that will now go to other countries instead. That makes the case for going abroad to get access to a shot. Early access in China runs $600 – $1500.

Efficacy in the mid-90% range for Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech may argue for waiting for one of those shots, but with likely increased transmissibility of the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus it may not make sense to wait.

The U.S., though, is in a favored position with vaccines relative to much of the world. We aren’t vaccinating anywhere close to as quickly as Israel, but not only are the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccines available there are other candidates in the pipeline as well including Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose shot which should read out in a matter of weeks followed by data from Novavax trials.

I had somehow missed that travel agencies in India have been publicly marketing vaccine packages with travel to the U.K., U.S., and Russia for the Gamaleya Research Institute Sputnik V vaccine.

Travel agencies such as Zenith Holidays in Kolkata, Gem Tours & Travels in Mumbai and Chariot World Tours in Bengaluru confirmed that they are formulating such tour packages, which could even include the vaccine cost.

…The tour operators are confident that they can arrange for the vaccine.

Atmanand Shanbhag, chairman of Chariot World Tours, claimed to have “strong contacts” in the UK who have told him that the vaccine will be made available for foreigners by mid-March in 2021.

Chariot World Tours plans a 4-5 night package from Bangalore to London for $1765 including vaccine, though they’d be on their own to either stay in London or return for the AstraZeneca second dose.

Meanwhile Gem Tours & Travels, which is planning New York vaccine trips, claims to have coined the term ‘vaccine tourism’ and Zenith Holidays has promoted a London stay long enough for both vaccine doses at $8211 per person single occupancy ($6158 per person based on double occupancy) and expects that “by mid-January next year, the vaccine will be available for foreigners in the UK.”

(HT: Marginal Revolution)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The UK and US are, by far, the most successful in administering Covid-19 vaccines. Still a long ways to go but the US is something like 2.9M so far and the British are over half a million. All other European countries are way behind, especially France, which has fewer than 1000 vaccinated. Still, the US has a long way to go but it’s a far better start than the press has led the public to believe. That is probably because the Trump has a foam in the mouth hated of The Donald, some of it justified and some of it hype.

  2. @ Gary — Gee, you think this could possibly be an opportunity for fraud? I’ll take my chances and wait.

  3. OK, boys read all the news. We are 1% vaccinated- with less than 50% of healthcare workers and politicians only. Israel is above 12% vaccinated as of today and have most citizens over 65 receiving their first dose already. Maybe we are not the brightest minds on the planet? But we are good at killing each other and we make the most tools that kill.

  4. I can’t speak to the UK but I am wondering how travel agencies can “guarantee” a vaccination in USA this year when there are presumably 340 million citizens with higher priority. Sounds like another Bangalore call center scam.

    And I would sooner sooner inject myself with bleach than the chicom vaccine…no thanks.

    However one could see a legit medical tourism opportunity in a 3rd world country that might prioritize tourists over its own citizens. But again there is an authenticity problem- do you really trust them to provide you with the real vaccine?

    No thanks – I will take my chances waiting in line at home.

  5. Just a comments posted so far, but it’s good to see that you are all leaning towards waiting. We have already heard reports about wealthy individuals approaching their doctors, ready to pay upwards of $25,000 for the vaccine. This was bound to happen. We’ll have to see how many unethical doctors are out their ready to take the money. And medical based tourism has been around for years, but in this case, I would imagine that there is going to be some investigation into the source of these guaranteed vaccine promises. Why would any country give up their own supplies for tourism. It smells black market and it smells getting poison injected into your body. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. Me. I’ll wait. There are plenty of others that need this vaccine before me. I’ll continue to do what I find necessary to protect myself and when they let me know that I can get the vaccine, I will be ready. Stay safe everyone. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Avoid large crowds. And live to see bright days going forward.

  6. @Robert, I will wait in line all night six feet apart in a raging blizzard to get a vaccine (if I don’t already have it from the Moderna trial). The choice is stark: Continue the miserable COVID lifestyle and maybe die; or get the vaccine and resume your real life.

    Congratulations to Israel on taking the early lead in getting its people vaccinated. The U.S. rollout is lackadaisical at best.

  7. Why travel to some third-world jurisdiction in the hope of an early genuine Covid-19 vaccine? Might just be some left-over placebo vials of saline. Who knows? And if you go to the UK, you may have to wait up to 12 weeks for the second shot, which may no be the same product as the first! What a hot mess.
    No, you can rely on any number of corrupt, immoral and ethics-free practitioners right in the US!
    For the right price you can be helped to jump hurdles and get yourself to the front of the line effortlessly.
    Good old American free enterprise, with a generous sprinkle of corruption.

  8. A bit off topic but here it goes:

    I saw the picture of HH Sheikh Mohammed back when it was released in November. It is quite amazing how a guy looks that has never ever lifted any weight in his life.

  9. These companies sound like scams. The UK has a vaccine shortage where they are talking about delaying second doses beyond the three week guideline just to give out more vaccines. NY is still in the early stages of vaccinations. None of these places are going to be vaccinating tourists anytime soon. If anything you will be required to have the vaccination to even travel there.

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