The slow pace of vaccination against Covid-19 in European Union (EU) countries is leading residents of the bloc to start evaluating the possibility of traveling to neighboring Russia to receive the vaccine.
Unlike in Europe, the coronavirus vaccination in Russia is no longer limited to the priority group alone, and anyone can receive a dose – including foreigners. The person only needs to present an identification document, such as a passport.
Despite this openness to foreigners, this type of vaccine tourism has so far attracted mainly Russians living in the rest of Europe, who have returned to their country of origin to receive the vaccine.
Currently, Russia’s borders are closed except for people from a shortlist of countries including Cuba, Egypt, Belarus, Finland, India and Japan. However, travelers must be citizens or residents of these countries and present a negative Covid test.
This is the case of researcher Fedor Levkovich-Maslyuk, 31, who lives in Paris but went to Moscow for the holidays and took the first dose of the Sputnik V vaccine in January.
“This is essentially the only way to stop the epidemic and protect myself and the people around me, and I have a very unique possibility [em comparação com a UE] get vaccinated, ”he says.
In Russia, where mass vaccination began in December 2020, the list of priority categories was small and included healthcare professionals and teachers. So, since January 18, Moscow has started to make the vaccine available free of charge to all those seeking positions, citizens or foreigners.
“In France, I would probably have to wait until the fall to get vaccinated, so I took the opportunity to get Sputnik in Russia. I hope that with the vaccine, I can start playing sports again, socializing a bit, and also worry less about infecting other people. I will also feel much better when I know my parents took the second dose, ”concludes Levkovich-Maslyuk.
25-year-old Belarusian Anastasia Ivanova, who lives in Dublin (Ireland), learned about the possibility of getting vaccinated for free in Russia by reading an article from a Norwegian journalist who had successfully received the vaccine.
Accompanied by her husband, who is Russian, the administrator went to Moscow and found the mall where the journalist had been vaccinated. There, she received her first dose, still in January.
“Everything was very fast, I arrived at the shopping center where the vaccination center was, I was assisted by a doctor, who asked me about allergies and if I had symptoms and in 15 minutes I had already been vaccinated. I’m young, I’m healthy, but I’d rather not catch Covid, ”she says, who had a bit of a fever in the first 24 hours after the vaccine – a symptom reported by most respondents – and is waiting for the second dose before being able to return to Ireland.
Despite the ease of receiving the vaccine in Moscow, the speed of the vaccination campaign in Russia is unclear. The latest information available shows the country had vaccinated 0.7 in 100 people, according to the Our World in Data website, linked to the University of Oxford.
However, Russian data has not been updated since January, so it is impossible to know the current status. By way of comparison, until the second (8), the European Union had vaccinated 3.85 inhabitants out of 100, while in Brazil the rate was 1.7 per 100.
Despite this, Russian physicist Dmitry Bykov, 33, considers vaccination in Russia to be more agile than in the EU. A resident of Munich, Germany, he traveled to Moscow and received his first dose on February 4.
For the physicist, in Germany, he could not get vaccinated soon. “In the West there are so many legal problems, so much bureaucracy, that everything is delayed. Here in Russia, maybe because our legal system is ‘imperfect’, it helps when we need something quickly. know the German bureaucracy well and here things take a long time. Even decisions on simpler matters take months or years, “he says.
In terms of comparison, Bykov says that in Moscow everything is done in a simple and almost informal way. “In the West, people pay a lot of attention to appearances. As in Germany, where they have built expensive centers and where there are no vaccines. “
Bykov jokes that if the situation remains the same, Russia will soon be able to develop “Sputnik tourism”, with citizens of other countries traveling to be vaccinated there.
The Russian government has so far avoided encouraging this type of procedure and has said it has no plans to use the vaccine to encourage tourism.
This is a different situation than in the United Arab Emirates, which sees vaccination as a business opportunity, according to a recent report by British newspaper The Guardian.
According to the publication, an elite London club (the Knightsbridge Circle) has offered its customers the option of traveling to the United Arab Emirates to receive the vaccine produced by Chinese company Sinopharm.
According to a spokesperson for the club, the aim of the measure is to encourage tourism in the United Arab Emirates. The local government has not officially confirmed the initiative. The country appears in second place in the proportional ranking of those who have vaccinated the most on the planet – 44.63 are vaccinated per 100 inhabitants, behind only Israel.
Cuba also plans to use the Covid-19 vaccination to attract tourists.
Still without an approved vaccine and with a peak in Covid contamination last week, Havana announced that when its Sovereign 2 vaccine – still in testing – is approved, it will be produced in large quantities.
According to the Cuban government, there will be enough vaccines for the entire population of the island (around 11 million people) and for dispatch to allied countries, such as Venezuela and Iran. Additionally, the plan is to offer the vaccine as part of a tourist package for anyone who decides to visit the country.
While in Cuba this can be an attraction, since the island lives mainly on tourism, a few miles away in Florida the so-called “vaccination tourism” has come under attack.
After some celebrities living in Latin American countries showed their photos of themselves vaccinated in that US state, which sparked complaints among residents who have not yet been vaccinated, the Florida government has started requiring proof of residency for the doses to be applied.
Paris-based Brazilian writer Marcia Camargos, 66, said she would have no doubts about going to Cuba for the shot. “He is desperate to see the slowness of the vaccine here in France, we cannot believe the official schedule. I have been to Cuba three times and would return. He would also go to Russia, despite Putin and his oppressive and homophobic government. Everything for health. “