Health & Fitness

Covid vaccination tours? Russia is considering travel packages to revitalize its tourism industry

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Tourists walk along Red Square in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow on November 6, 2020.

ALEXANDER NEMENOV | AFP | Getty Images

With Russia’s coronavirus shot Sputnik V sluggishly received among its own citizens, Russia is considering launching travel packages for the Covid vaccination for tourists.

Russian state news agency Tass quoted one of the country’s tourism industry leaders as saying that “vaccination prices” were ready, but that visas and entry requirements for foreign visitors were holding them back.

“The product is ready, but the issues of visa support and legal entry for foreigners who wish to receive the Russian vaccine have yet to be resolved,” Andrei Ignatyev, president of the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RUTI), told Tass.

The price of a three-week vaccination rate for foreigners will be anywhere from $ 1,500 to $ 2,500, excluding the airline’s expense, Ignatyev added.

Vaccination tours appear to have the blessing of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a speech at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg (SPIEF) last week, Putin asked the government to examine the possibility of offering paid Covid vaccinations to foreign visitors to Russia.

Russia is keen to revitalize its tourism industry to end the Covid pandemic. Like other countries around the world, Russia last March introduced entry restrictions for almost all foreigners (with the exception of some workers), bringing tourism to a standstill. Since then, entry restrictions have been relaxed if visitors present negative Covid tests before traveling.

Immunization tourism could prove popular for people in countries struggling to get their own immunization programs off the ground. The Times of India reported last month that a Delhi-based travel agent was offering a 24-day package tour to Russia that included two shots of the Sputnik-V vaccine and a 21-day interval to allow sightseeing between vaccinations.

Slow domestic recording

Russia was the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine – its own Sputnik V – last August, but despite its rapid approval and rollout, domestic uptake of vaccination has been sluggish.

According to data compiled by Our World In Data, only 9% of the adult population have been fully vaccinated to date, placing Russia behind Brazil, India, Turkey and Mexico in terms of vaccination progress.

Target market

In Europe, according to Our World In Data, over 23% of adults are now fully vaccinated. Russia will therefore look for potential vaccine tourists in the distance, said Ignatiev.

“The countries of Africa and Latin America have shown great interest in such a tourist product throughout the vaccination campaign in Russia, and RUTI has received such inquiries,” he added, according to Tass.

In late May, President Putin announced that Russia would not make Covid vaccines mandatory for its citizens and said people should recognize the need to vaccinate for themselves. He also stressed that the vaccine was safe; According to peer-reviewed results from its late-stage clinical study published in February in the medical journal The Lancet, Sputnik V was found to be 91.6% effective in preventing the development of Covid-19.

“I would like to emphasize again and appeal to all of our citizens: think carefully, remember that the Russian vaccine – practice has already shown that millions (of people) have used it – is currently the most reliable and safest” said Putin. “In our country, all the conditions for a vaccination are in place.”

A poll published in March by the Russian electoral center Levada found that 62% of people did not want to receive the vaccine, with the greatest reluctance being found among 18- to 24-year-olds.

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Katherine Clark