Early in 2021, when most people still didn’t yet have the possibility of getting vaccinated, there were a lot of reports of vaccine tourism. Across the U.S., people took ‘shot trips’ to states which offered to jab those who wanted the vaccine, even if they didn’t live in the state. It was reported that people traveled to Florida from as far away as Brazil and Argentina for that exact reason. By February, one travel agent in Florida was running vaccine trips to Israel for $850, then charging $2,000 to rent a house for two months to wait for a second shot before returning home.
An exclusive London “travel and lifestyle service” called Knightsbridge Circle, was advertising Covid-19 vaccine trips to the Emirates for people over 65 years of age. Cuba set up its own advertising campaign to attract vaccine tourists to visit and Indian tour operators ran trips to London or New York for clients to get their Pfizer jabs and then a take a quick tour of some sites before heading home. A while later in April 2021, the Maldives archipelago launched a new vaccine tourism campaign, called ‘3V,’ appealing to tourists using the slogan, ‘Visit, Vaccinate, Vacation.’
And now in the latest round, hundreds of Russians have been flying to Croatia in order to get vaccinated, with a vaccine that is approved by the EU, so that they can travel freely across Europe.
Croatia is offering free vaccines to anyone, even people from overseas, and so that is where they are heading. Once Russian visitors have an EU-approved vaccine, they receive an EU Digital Covid Certificate which allows Russian people to visit other countries in Europe and then other countries around the world.
The Russian government is currently only offering the home-grown Sputnik V vaccine and in contrast, anyone vaccinated with the Sputnik V vaccine is subject to very severe travel restrictions and quarantine requirements across the EU.
The head of one vaccination centre in Croatia, Dr. Neda Ferencic Vrban, told France24 that “from April to October 2021, 4,908 foreigners, most of them Russians, got vaccinated here. Only during this month we’ve had around 1,000 Russians who received vaccines.”
Reuter’s vaccination tracker states that just over 35% of Russia’s adult population has been fully vaccinated.