‘Vaccine tourism’: People are traveling to get the shot

BOSTON — After a long, stressful pandemic, some people just don’t want to wait in line for the vaccine. They may not have to if they’re willing to pay the right price.

According to Arthur Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU School of Medicine in New York City, people are booking trips around the world just to get the shot. It’s a trend known as ‘vaccine tourism.’

“I know that people have gone to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates [to get the vaccine]. You have to be pretty rich and have a lot of free time to do it, but I know people have done it,” Caplan told Boston 25′s sister station WFTV.

There are businesses that appear to be selling access to the vaccine, like ZenithHolidays.com based out of India. The international travel website features a “vaccine tourism” section that offers a four-day stay with a vaccine for about $2,000. The company warns they’re still waiting on approval.

Another package on ZenithHolidays.com includes a package to the United Kingdom for “Valentine Month,” with a six-day stay in London or a 22-day stay in the U.K. The site said the trips include airfare, breakfast, sightseeing and a COVID-19 safety kit, but they can’t guarantee the price or availability of the vaccine.

Caplan said you’ve got to be extremely careful with any of these online offers.

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“Some of those are already scams; there is not going to be an appointment and you are not going anywhere,” Caplan said.

People are also flocking to other states to receive the vaccine. Last month, Florida changed its vaccine policy after more than 40,000 residents from other states received the shot in the Sunshine State.

Toronto-based travel agent Martin Firestone told WFTV he gets hundreds of calls asking him to book people a trip to the U.S.

“They basically are making arrangements now and purchasing travel insurance and heading south to get the vaccine. And that is the sole motivator for them heading down south at this point,” Firestone said.

Massachusetts Public Health Association Executive Director Carlene Pavlos said she’s not surprised. Her organization is a healthcare advocacy group that focuses on health equity in low-income communities.

“With the vaccine rollout, we’re seeing sort of a deepening of the inequities that we have seen throughout the pandemic and are really concerned about the ways in which this vaccine rollout is not addressing the pre-existing health inequities but actually seems to be serving to deepen those,” Pavlos said.

New Hampshire is also trying to limit the number of outsiders from coming in to get the vaccine. Granite State officials recently changed the vaccine policy to “residents only” and now require specific documentation including a driver’s license and a paystub.

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