Florencia González Alzaga, a photographer in Buenos Aires, hatched her plan to fly to the United States to get the Covid vaccine after the subject was mentioned in her book club at Zoom.
Juan Pablo Bojacá, a Colombian influencer specializing in frugal tourism, suggested his 137,000 Instagram followers try to follow him and posted a step-by-step guide that shows him going through passport control in Miami. José Acevedo, real estate agent in Paraguay, was surprised by the ease of his entry into Las Vegas.
Frustrated by the slow pace of vaccination in their country and aware of overdoses in the United States – where tens of millions of people have chosen not to be vaccinated – wealthy Latin Americans and the middle class on tourist visas have visited the country in recent weeks. to get vaccinated against Covid-19. “It sounds like a dream,” said González, who received the injection in Miami in April.
Access has been a boon for the privileged in countries where the virus continues to wreak havoc – even as many, including those who benefit from it, are struggling that vaccine tourism reinforces the inequalities that have compounded the human cost of the pandemic.
Sean Simons, spokesperson for the ONE campaign, which works to end disease and poverty, said the trip to get vaccinated could have serious unwanted consequences and urged countries with excessive doses to channel them through the WHO distribution system called Covax. “Millionaires and billionaires crossing continents or oceans to get vaccinated, usually twice, means more exposure, variants more likely to spread, and access only to members of the elite,” he said. he declares.
The Biden government announced this month that it will give 80 million doses of the vaccine by the end of June to countries struggling to immunize their populations. As the success stories of Latin Americans who do get vaccinated are shared on social media and word of mouth, and as officials from New York to Alaska encourage vaccine tourism, thousands are considering getting vaccinated. return to the north, which they did. plane tickets to skyrocket on multiple routes.
Travel agencies in the region have started selling vaccination packages, including multi-country itineraries for Brazilians, who must spend two weeks in another country before they can enter the United States. José Carlos Brunetti, vice president of Maral Turismo, a travel agency in Asunción, Paraguay, said the trips were a blessing to his industry after a dismal year.
“The frenzy of traveling to the United States to try to get vaccinated started in March,” he said. “Now we are seeing exponential growth in the number of passengers and flights.”
Generally, foreigners entering the United States on tourist visas are allowed to seek treatment in the country. The State Department is carrying out police record checks on foreigners applying for visas, but authorities have said they do not do the procedure for people who travel explicitly to be vaccinated – and there appears to be no Federal government directive on foreigners who come to the country with such a visa objective. Once inside, officials say, it is up to states, counties and healthcare providers to decide whether to apply the vaccine without proof of residency.
Leading Latin American politicians are among those who have traveled to the United States for the vaccine.
Cesar Acuña promised as Peru’s presidential candidate earlier this year that he intended to be “the last” in the country to receive the vaccine. But after losing at the polls, he explained that there was no reason to keep his promise. “Remember that I am 68 years old, I am a vulnerable person,” he said on the radio.
Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s former president, had promised in February that “he would not be vaccinated until the last Argentinian in risk groups and essential workers was vaccinated”. Despite having imposed a series of strict quarantine measures since last year, Argentina is facing a generalized epidemic which experts say is in part caused by a highly contagious strain first detected in Brazil .
Despite promising to wait to be vaccinated, Macri wrote in a Facebook post this month that he had received the single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson in Miami, after realizing that “the vaccines are applied everywhere, on beaches, shopping centers and even pharmacies “.
Among the 12 Latin Americans who traveled to the United States for the vaccine and were interviewed for this report, several expressed mixed feelings. Some who declined to be identified said they felt guilty for receiving the vaccine while compatriots most vulnerable to the disease remained at risk.
González, the Argentinian photographer, said her plan was devised after members of her online book club started talking more about their fears about the pandemic than about the books they were reading. “We started talking about it, and I was like, why don’t we go to Miami to get the shot?” She said. “Week to week, we buy tickets.
González said she could easily make an appointment to get the vaccine the day after arriving in Miami on April 1. The dose of Johnson & Johnson she received at the Salvation Army center marked the end of a nerve-wracking phase of isolation that reminded her of her cancer treatment seven years ago. She was surprised to see how few people at the vaccination center asked. “They wanted to vaccinate people,” he said. “They were delighted to be vaccinated.”
The first wave of Argentinian vaccine tourists who returned home with U.S. vaccination certificates sparked a steep rise in ticket prices, said Santiago Torre Walsh, who runs a travel blog called Sir Chandler. At first, travelers were reluctant to admit the purpose of the trip, he said. “Now that has changed. People seem more willing to talk about it openly, so they motivate others to do the same. “
Acevedo, the real estate agent in Paraguay, said he came to see his trip to get the vaccine as a worthwhile and possibly economical investment, as being obese puts him at greater risk.
“I cannot stop working, producing, and my job requires contact with a lot of people,” he explained. He felt that by getting the American vaccine, he reduced the cost to the Paraguayan government.
“Part of that is not taking a dose from the people who need it most,” he said.