Vaccine Tourism Has Started With Trips To The UAE, India And Morocco

I think everyone’s ready to get back to normal after 2020 and a rocky start to 2021. Vaccines hold that promise, but the rollout is slow. And those with the means will go to lengths to accelerate their shots. That’s why I wrote back in November that I expected vaccine tourism to become a trend in early 2021. Last month we started to see travel agencies advertising vaccine tourism packages. And now trips are actually happening.

Concierge service Knightsbridge Circle in the U.K. is offering members trips to both the United Arab Emirates and India for vaccinations.

“It’s very exciting to say that we can offer the vaccine now,” says founder Stuart McNeill. “We’ve been proactive in offering it to all of our existing members.”

And the inoculations are already well underway, with members based both in the UK and abroad flying out for vaccination holidays, many on private jets. “It’s like we’re the pioneers of this new luxury travel vaccine programme.

You go for a few weeks to a villa in the sunshine, get your jabs and your certificate and you’re ready to go,” says McNeill, who assumes that many such members have flown out under the business/education trip exemption.

So far they’ve offered the Pfizer and Sinopharm vaccines in the U.A.E., and have now launched India vaccinations. They are also setting up Marrakech, where they’ve arranged to transport AstraZeneca shots from India. Some participants stay in-country between shots while others come and go. Total cost for the trip can be up to $55,000 including first class accommodations and flights. The Concierge service charges around $35,000 a year for membership.

People are so tired of lockdowns one woman tried to escape curfew by putting a leash on her husband and taking him for a walk since they didn’t have a dog. (Earlier this year people in Spain were renting out their dogs for 20 euros an hour because dog walking allowed people to leave their homes, the dogs were exhausted.)

China’s Sinopharm vaccine and Oxford-AstraZeneca aren’t as effective in Phase 3 trials as Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (though they’re more effective than Sinovac’s). You might expect some people to weigh waiting for one of the more effective mRNA vaccines against early access to one that’s reported to be somewhat less effective. But remember that the AstraZeneca shot reported 100% effectiveness at avoiding hospitalization and that’s probably the most important metric. And with the pandemic raging on both sides of the Pond, and fears heightened by new more transmissible strains, why wait?

Now, some will wonder whether this is ethical. After all, doesn’t taking a dose as a vaccine tourist take away a dose from someone else? The concierge service says they haven’t arranged vaccination for anyone under 65 but let’s leave that aside. More money can expand capacity for vaccine production. Selling vaccines is one way to make it possible to vaccinate more people.

(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

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. […] Apocryphal Winston Churchill stories are the best stories. In one, Churchill approached Lady Astor and asked if she’d sleep with him for a million pounds sterling. She stammers for a moment and agrees. He then asks if she’d do it for just 50 pence and she’s offended, “What kind of woman do you think I am?” to which Churchill responds, “We’ve already established that, Madam. Now we’re just haggling over price.” You can even spend money on a vaccine. […]


  1. It would be one thing if the extremely high fees landed in the public health services of the country to support efforts to vaccinate the poor. But I’m guessing they are more likely to go to bribery. Anyone taking one of these trips should look at the college admissions scandles in the US and determine if they really want to take the risk that there are no “facilitation” payments being made on their behalf that would subject them to potential prosecution. Unless, of course, they look good in orange.

  2. Sinovac and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines are traditional ones (i.e., based on inactive virus). Typically such vaccines are effective <90-95% and even 60-70% would be a good number. This has nothing to do where in the world such vaccines were developed. Nowadays, almost all raw materials for drugs and other biochemicals are coming from China and India and there is a good chance that some of the components of mRNA vaccine are still made in China or based on chemicals coming from China. This is not a concern but rather the novelty of mRNA technology to genetically reprogram the human body. For the latter reason, right now if given a choice I would take a traditional (and less effective) vaccine rather than one based on mRNA.

  3. @Kuloko – the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is a viral vector vaccine, using a chimpanzee common cold virus to deliver the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. It is not an inactivated virus. Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine is an inactivated virus.

  4. As Gary say, the Sinovac vaccine is not as effective. I would rather have one proven to 90%+ effective in phase 3 trials. The one that I would worry about is the Russian vaccine.

  5. @Kuloko: The mRNA vaccines don’t “genetically reprogram the human body”. In fact, they don’t even contain any genetic material.

    You could argue that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine does genetically reprogram the body since it delivers DNA into the cell nucleus, although that gene is not actually incorporated into the cell’s DNA. It’s just used to produce spike protein mRNA, which is what the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain.

  6. Sinopharm is this the Chinese firm where their senior management resigned under very curious circumstances last Friday.

  7. “Selling vaccines is one way to make it possible to vaccinate more people.” It just makes it possible to vaccinate more rich people at the expense of people who are the most at risk.

  8. IDK what the hell the rest of the country is doing but here in WV we are giving shots like there is no tomorrow. My wife is a teacher and she already got the shot, her mother lives in OH less than 5 miles from us and is 78 and can’t get even get on a list.

  9. Gary, I am surprised that you are not going on one of these trips. Since you previously posted that you would spend a million miles for a vaccine, I am surprised that you would not be interested in spending 55000 dollars for the same thing.

  10. @Doubletree Hotel. Kudos to WV. I check the charts every day, and your state has been in the lead continuously in terms of shots administered as percentage of population. My state has been dwelling in the bottom reaches, and finally we are seeing some pressure on the state authorities to to stop the “trickle out” and get it moving.

    I am in the Moderna study, and got called in to be unblinded and get the shot if I hadn’t already. It turns out I did get the vaccine in August and September, so they just did a blood draw. I was told that they were initially bringing in the health care professionals first for unblinding, but after so many unreturned phone calls and failures to set up appointments they decided to call in all test subjects here who want to be unblinded. They can’t stand to see appointment slots go unclaimed, which slows it down for everyone. It should be like boarding groups on airplanes. Call for Group 1 first, but if Group 1 passengers don’t board in timely fashion, they can board with Group 2,3,4, etc., whenever they show up. But above all, keep things moving.

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