- Vaccine tourism: Going abroad for Covid-19 shots
- Recently, reports emerged of a Dubai-based tour operator offering a 24-day package tour from Delhi to Moscow, which included two shots of the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine.
- Even as several constraints need to be worked out first – including visa and flights from India to Russia – a Delhi-based travel agency has also jumped in the fray, saying they are considering vaccination tour packages to Russia.
GS-II: Social Justice (Health related issues)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is vaccine tourism?
- Can Indians go abroad to get vaccinated for Covid-19?
- Is vaccine tourism ethical?
- Vaccine Passport
- Concerns Raised in Instituting Vaccine Passport
What is vaccine tourism?
- Though there is no official definition of vaccine tourism, as per reports any travel/trip taken with a goal to get vaccinated can be dubbed as vaccine tourism. So, in simple words, Vaccine tourism means visiting another country or state to get a vaccine not available in home-country.
- Right now, vaccine tourism is all about the COVID-19 vaccine, which has had a slow rollout in many states and isn’t yet available worldwide.
Vaccine Tourism in the world
- In India, the term “vaccine tourism” became popular in late 2020 when reports emerged of several tour operators offering packages to the US with the additional benefit of a vaccine shot.
- Recently, the tiny central European republic of San Marino welcomed its first vaccine tourists – who took advantage of the microstate’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine holiday package.
- It is said that Russia and the Maldives are already working on programmes to offer people abroad the chance to get vaccinated during a visit; similar offerings are sprouting in the US as well.
- South Africans are said to be flying to Zimbabwe, Canadians and South Americans are travelling to the US for vaccine jabs.
Can Indians go abroad to get vaccinated for Covid-19?
- Currently, it is not illegal to travel to a foreign country to get vaccinated if air travel is allowed.
- However, so far, there are no official arrangements in place with foreign authorities to ensure these “vaccine tourists” get the experience they’re promised, shot in the arm and all.
- Some countries are now actively preventing vaccine tourism. In the UK, for example, you can only get the vaccine when you’re offered it through your doctor, and you need to confirm your personal details, including address, at your appointment for the shot.
Is vaccine tourism ethical?
- Vaccine tourism has emerged as trend in countries where vaccines are in short supply, or where certain groups are still restricted from being inoculated.
- There are, however, lot of concerns over whether or not it’s ethical given the fact that most nations, including, UK, India and Canada are vaccinating their citizens as per a set target, prioristing most vulnerable groups over others.
- There are only few countries like the US, Russia, France, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Poland, Zimbabwe, Iceland, etc, which have adopted a universal coverage policy when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. Still, most countries except for the US, are facing a shortage of vaccines.
- So, by travelling to another country for vaccine, it’s very likely that someone who might have needed it more was denied of those COVID-19 shots.
- Sometimes, vaccine tourism is confused with vaccine passport, which is a more regulated practice gaining currency around the world.
- A vaccine passport is an e-certificate that stores and records jabs and Covid-19 test status.
- The idea is modelled on the proof of vaccination that several countries required even before the pandemic.
- Function of Vaccine Passports:
- Will digitise vaccination records across countries.
- Supposed to function as proof that the holder has been vaccinated against Covid-19 and is, therefore, safe.
- The primary benefit will be to the tourism and the hospitality industries, which are both seen as being at the heart of Covid-19 spread and are the worst hit by the pandemic.
- The international air travel, which suffered massively because of the outbreak.
Concerns Raised in Instituting Vaccine Passport
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) is against the introduction of Covid-19 vaccination proofs as a requirement for international travel. There are still critical unknown facts regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission.
- The major difficulty in implementation will be the lack of uniformity across jurisdictions in requirement and issuance of proofs of vaccination.
- Preferential vaccination of travellers could result in inadequate supplies of vaccines for priority populations considered at high risk of severe Covid-19 disease.
- Introducing a requirement of vaccination as a condition for travel has the potential to hinder equitable global access to a limited vaccine supply and would be unlikely to maximize the benefits of vaccination for individual societies and overall global health.
- Experts argue that vaccine passports, in any form, might make travel inequitable. Adoption of these digital passports can perpetuate discrimination and inequality, increasing the divide between socioeconomic groups.
- Rich countries that have already bought millions of doses from pharmaceutical companies are ahead in the race. The poorer nations may have to wait for months, if not years, to start inoculations. This means that if vaccine passports become a norm, then these lower-income nations will lose out on the advantage. It will lead to exclusion of the younger generation who would be last in line to be vaccinated.
- These are mainly digital certificates that are accessed by a particular service provider to check for proof of vaccination, there is a possibility that they would be used by authorities to track the movement of their holders.
-Source: Indian Express