‘Vaccination tours’ to Russia waiting for legal issues to be resolved

‘Vaccination tours’ to Russia waiting for legal issues to be resolved
Photo: Marco Verch

In a bid to revive the tourism industry, Russia may soon launch package tours for foreigners that include immunisation against COVID-19 in addition to regular sightseeing. However, visa and entry requirements for such visits are still in question.

Russia is considering launching COVID-19 vaccination travel packages for tourists, says CNBC. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the government to study the possibility of offering paid vaccinations against COVID-19 to foreign visitors to Russia. According to President of the Russian Union of Travel Industry Andrey Ignatyev, “vaccination tours” are ready, but the issues of visa support and legal entry for foreigners willing to receive the Russian vaccine are yet to be resolved. Ignatyev told TASS news agency that the price of a three-week vaccine tour for foreigners will range between $1,500 and $2,500 excluding airline costs.

Vaccine tourism, which is meant to help Russia revive its tourism industry after the pandemic, may prove popular for people in countries experiencing problems with their own immunisation programmes. For example, The Times of India reported last month that a Delhi-based travel agency was offering a 24-day package tour to Russia including two shots of Sputnik V vaccine with a 21-day sightseeing interval between the shots. “The countries of Africa and Latin America showed great interest in such a tourist product,” said Ignatyev.

Sputnik V was found to be 91,6% effective in preventing people from developing COVID-19. Photo: Mos.ru

While Russia was the first country in the world to authorise its own coronavirus vaccine, uptake of the shot domestically has been rather sluggish compared to other countries. According to Our World In Data information provider, Russia stands behind Brazil, India, Turkey and Mexico in terms of vaccination progress with only 9% of the adult population fully vaccinated. In Europe, by comparison, more than 23% of adults have been fully vaccinated. In March, Russia’s Levada Center published a poll that found that 62% of the respondents did not want to get the vaccine. Young people (18-24) showed the highest level of reluctance.

At the end of May, President Putin announced that Russia would not make vaccination against COVID-19 compulsory for its citizens. Instead, he pointed out that the vaccine was safe and said that people should see the necessity of immunisation on their own. According to the late-stage clinical trial data published in The Lancet medical journal in February, Russia’s most famous vaccine, Sputnik V, was found to be 91,6% effective in preventing people from developing COVID-19. “I would like to emphasise once again and to appeal to all our citizens: think carefully, keep in mind that the Russian vaccine — the practice has already shown that millions [of people] have used it — is currently the most reliable and the safest,” said the Russian president adding that all conditions for vaccination had been created in the country.

By Anna Litvina