Vaccine tourism: why do Russians go abroad to get immunized? | Science and Ecology | DW

It is unclear whether the Russian Sputnik V vaccine will be approved in the West in the future. This fact makes life difficult for many Russians, because to enter many countries you must certify that you have been inoculated with a vaccine approved by the EU. But not only tourism lovers are affected, but also Russian citizens who travel abroad for work or family reasons. Without a vaccination certificate, in some countries you can’t even dine in a restaurant or check into a hotel.

In April, some Europeans traveled to Russia to get vaccinated with Sputnik V. At that time, incidence rates in EU countries were high and vaccines were only available to people at high risk due to age, health status or the job. In Russia, however, Sputnik V was free and readily available. However, the situation was reversed in September: the demand for travel to get vaccinated in Russia fell, and Russians began to take an interest in vaccines in Europe.

Serbia popular with Russian vaccine tourists

“In September, regular customers of some travel companies realized that the approval process for Sputnik V was taking too long, so they asked the companies to help them get access to a WHO-approved vaccine.” said Maja Lomidze, manager of the Association of Russian Tour Operators. Thus arose vaccination tourism. Together with foreign partners, the companies began to organize trips to countries where foreigners could get vaccinated.

Currently, a Russian tourist can only be vaccinated in three European countries: Serbia, the most popular country, followed by Croatia and Greece. And while organizers planned 10 to 20 vaccination trips per month in September, by the end of October they were receiving 10 to 20 requests a day.

Vaccines for Russians, also in Germany

According to Iwetta Verdija, from the Russian tour operator BSI Group, there are several reasons why vaccination trips are so popular right now: “Whoever is inoculated with a vaccine approved by the WHO or EU countries has many opportunities to travel to European countries. Some want to be able to visit their older parents in Europe, others have children there or are constantly on business trips. They cannot take tests every three days to go to a restaurant. “

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The BSI Group also offers vaccination trips to Germany for Russians. However, they are more expensive and difficult to obtain. Maja Lomidze says that the vaccination alone would cost between 500 and 800 euros in Germany, plus the interpreter, accommodation, etc. More expensive than in Serbia, for example.

“Being able to travel the world with ease”

Muscovite David Afanasiadi had the “opportunity to get vaccinated” during a business trip to Nice, where he was inoculated with BionTech / Pfizer. He still had a pre-pandemic tourist visa and a business invitation to enter the country: “It makes no sense to talk about trusting this or that vaccine. I am not a doctor. But I wanted to inoculate myself with a well-known vaccine so that I could travel the world with ease.” .

Saint Petersburg physician Saur Mugutdinov came to Austria for an internship. In Russia he had already received two doses of Sputnik V and in Austria one dose of Johnson & Johnson. Since then, he has tried to persuade anti-vaccines on social media to get immunized: “There are anti-vaccine movements everywhere, but only here has it become widespread. Almost the majority of the population is against vaccines, they have never seen anything like this before. “Saur said of the situation in his home country.

(rmr/ms)

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