Flight, Hotel And a Souvenir Pin (or Two): Three Testimonies About Vaccine Tourism In The United States

Go to Florida, take a picture with Mickey Mouse at Disney World, and get vaccinated against COVID-19. Or visit New York, tour Central Park by carriage, and get your Johnson & Johnson fix with the bright lights of Times Square in the background. They are pictures that can be imagined when thinking about vaccine tourism in the United States. But the reality is less glamorous and includes fleeting stays anywhere in the country and hiring travel agencies to make an appointment.

“I know a person who has a very broad financial solvency who two months ago took his mother, his sister and his wife to Amarillo (Texas) to get the vaccine. They stayed two or three days, returned to Mexico and returned 20 days later for their second dose, “says Ricardo Thomas. He is also considering going to the neighboring country to get vaccinated.


This Mexican sports journalist explains that, for his country, the southern US state is “the mecca of vaccines” and that there are various agencies that for 500 Mexican pesos (20.60 euros) organize an appointment to get a vaccine somewhere place in the United States where they do not ask for proof of residence to get a dose.

Thomas is considering going to Miami, Florida, as Governor Ron DeSantis has now removed the requirement to be a resident to receive the coronavirus vaccine and he has a family there. “Last week I was talking with my uncle and I told him about the situation of being able to go there to get vaccinated, since now it seems that vaccines are being given away in the US like hot cakes,” says this 43-year-old journalist. Due to his age, he estimates that in his country of origin he will not be able to be vaccinated for about four or five months.

Giovanni Silva, a 39-year-old Mexican designer, went to get vaccinated in California, at a health center near Los Angeles. “There are many undocumented immigrants in this area. In the vaccination centers they ask questions, but if you do not have documents they do not complicate it because they know that many people do not have papers. I only presented my Mexican identification,” he says.

Silva got a Pfizer vaccine, which is two doses, so this week he will cross the border again to get the second injection. Despite having had to pay for four flights – because his vacations were not enough to stay the necessary 20 days in California with his family – he describes the trip as the “best investment” he has made, since he regained “peace of mind” . “I am hypertensive and my parents died last year, not from COVID-19, but I lost them three months apart, in March and June. I live alone and it affected me a lot, really, because it was a duel that I went through without company and isolated. I isolated myself out of fear, I said to myself: ‘I can’t die the same year as my parents.’

Sebastián Ortiz, a Colombian designer based in Spain, also considered going to visit his brother in Los Angeles to get the vaccine, but his plans were deflated when he saw how difficult it would be to travel from Europe, since The United States does not allow tourism from Schengen countries –Among which is Spain–, the United Kingdom, Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India.

“Going to the United States to get the vaccine was always an idea I had. But, seeing how difficult it is for people who have been in Europe for more than 14 days, that idea was twisted, “says this thirty-year-old settled in Barcelona.

As he explains, it is not feasible for him to go to Colombia for two weeks to enter the United States and get vaccinated. “I would do it when you can travel – to the US from Europe – but if this is not going to be possible until after the summer, I’ll wait for them to vaccinate me in Spain, which according to calculations should occur between August and September for our group of population (healthy young people), or, in the worst case, in November “.

Ortiz explains that in Colombia there are also travel agencies that offer vacation tourism packages. “Depending on the type of vaccine you want, there are packages for a week for those who choose Johnson & Johnson (which is one dose) or more than a month if they want Pfizer or Moderna, which are two.”

The most popular places for this type of tourism are in the southern United States, but New York City wants to change that and make the Big Apple the center of vaccine tourism.

“Come. It’s safe. It’s a great place to be, and we’re going to take care of you,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a message to future tourists. In that same press conference, announced that “the capital of the world” will give its visitors the administration of the one-dose vaccine, Johnson & Johnson, from distributed mobile units at tourist attractions, such as the Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park or in the vicinity of the boats that go to the Statue of Liberty.

The city, which a year ago was completely closed for being one of the major epicenters of the pandemic, tries in this way to once again be one of the centers of world tourism. In 2020, New York lost 44 million tourists and $ 60 billion.



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