Russian vaccine tourism gathers momentum after Sputnik V hits WHO problem

MOSCOW, Sept. 22 (Reuters) – Russian travel agencies are selling package tours to Russians to receive foreign COVID-19 vaccines abroad, as some Russians are frustrated that their domestically produced vaccines have not not been approved internationally.

Russia has not registered any vaccines manufactured abroad. It has approved four domestically produced vaccines, including two-dose Sputnik V. None of the Russian vaccines are endorsed by the World Health Organization or the European Union.

WHO has suspended its approval process for Sputnik V until a factory that failed a good practice inspection is visited again, the Pan American Health Organization said on September 15.

Demand in Russia for circuits that allow people to receive WHO-approved foreign vaccines has increased since the announcement last week, said Maya Lomidze, director of the Russian Association of Tour Operators (ATOR).

Most trips, which cost between 600 and 850 euros, are to Serbia, and one company offered Germany as a destination. They allow customers to receive one of four different vaccines, including one developed with Pfizer, ATOR said in a statement.

If travelers choose a two-dose vaccine, they must book two trips.

Anna Filatovskaya, public relations manager of Russian Express, a travel agency offering such tours, said customers most often choose the Pfizer snap.

She said her package tours included round-trip flights with Aeroflot, two or three nights in a hotel in Belgrade, breakfast and a trip to a clinic. The vaccine itself is free, but the travel agency registers customers to receive it, she said.

“We started selling these tours about two weeks ago. There were around 20 applications at that time… ”she said.

Demand increased on Wednesday after local media reported the availability of such visits, she said.

“It caused wild demand,” she told Reuters. She said 17 people had requested a vaccination trip on Wednesday.

Ivetta Verdiyan, advertising manager at another travel agency, said their tours are mainly used by Russians who travel on business or whose children are studying abroad.

Maria, a resident of Moscow, said she traveled abroad this summer to get the vaccine, although she did not use any of those tours.

“I trust Sputnik – but he is not recognized outside of Russia. World travel rules mean that I need an international certificate to travel for work,” he said. she stated, refusing to give her last name. (Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alison Williams)

Comments are closed.