I wrote back in November that I expected vaccine tourism to become a trend in early 2021. That was just before the impressive results of Phase 3 trials from Pfizer and Moderna, which meant many U.S. citizens would want to wait for those jabs rather than going abroad for Sinopharm or Sputnik. And U.S. vaccine rollouts accelerated rapidly after a rocky start, which meant Americans weren’t waiting as long for vaccination as most of the world.
So when we started to see travel agencies advertising vaccine tourism packages, it wasn’t aimed at Americans going abroad.
In fact it’s the opposite. While the Maldives is talking up vaccination on arrival for tourists, and Serbia welcomed foreign tourists with shots, Alaska also sees vaccine availability as a tool to promote tourism.
And now travel agencies in Thailand are promoting tour packages to the U.S. to get vaccinated. That’s a function of,
- Widespread availability of vaccines in the U.S.
- The greater effectiveness of the vaccines available here, compared to what many countries use (such as Sinovac’s Coronavac)
- The slow rollout we’re seeing in much of the world, not just in poorer countries but also in countries that fared well during the pandemic limiting the spread of Covid but which tend to be behind in vaccines.
Bangkok tour operator, Unithai Trip, has packages from 75,000 baht to 200,000 baht ($2,400 to $6,400) for trips to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, with prices dependent on the time gap between doses.
“Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) is one jab, but 90% of inquires want Pfizer (PFE.N),” which needs about 20 days between the first and second doses, the agency’s owner, Rachphol Yamsaeng, told Reuters.
…A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Bangkok declined to immediately comment, but the U.S. State Department’s website lists medical tourism as a valid reason to visit.
Vaccine tourism – taking a VACCation – is also being promoted for travel to Russia with “[a]nother agency, Udachi, advertised a 23-day “VACCation in Russia” to receive the Sputnik V vaccine for up to 210,000 baht ($6,700).”