The businessman named Elver Estela, 49, told CNN said they have arrived in America, not for the U.S. dream; instead, they are there for the vaccine dream. He had moved from Peru looking for the coronavirus vaccine and got his first shot of Pfizer at an inoculation center in Seattle.
Estela had decided to travel to America earlier in 2021, where jabs were relatively abundant, after seeing numerous people close to him become sick with the COVID-19, an experience he likened to Russian roulette. With over 68000 COVID-19-related fatalities in a population of 32M, Peru is one of the worst-hit nations in Latin America.
By the time Estela finally arrived In America earlier in May, he realized one of his closest co-workers had tested COVID-19 positive back home in Lima.
Elver Estela is not alone. According to some health and travel experts, travel demand from Latin America to America has increased this year, fueled by increasing interest in ‘vaccine tourism’.
70,000 Peruvians Traveled Abroad to Get Inoculated
Gustavo Rosell, Vice Minister of Peru’s Public Health, told reporters on 18th May that almost seventy-thousand Peruvians had already moved abroad to get immunized.
Chief Executive of Latin American & Caribbean Air Transport Association, Jose Ricardo Botelho, tells CNN that a recent spike in Caribbean and Latin America journeys and intended for America is possibly linked to ‘vaccine tourism’.
Botelho stated to Cable News Network that as a reference, in 2019, tours to North America concentrated seventy-seven percent of tours outside the region. In March this year, these tours reached eighty-seven percent, an increase closely related to the significant number of “vaccine” tourists going to America to get their dose.
Carissa Etienne, Director of Pan American Health Organization, told reporters on 19th May that as an area, Latin America is greatly short of coronavirus vaccines. Although more than 0.4 billion coronavirus vaccine shots have been administered across the Americas, most of them have been in America. She said that just three percent of Latin Americans had been fully immunized against coronavirus, and they yet have a long way to move to confirm that everyone is protected.
According to PAHO officials, the Caribbean and Latin American nations have received over 12M jabs through the WHO-backed COVAX facility as of 21st May, but the program is experiencing delivery delays with what already is a limited number of jabs.
CNN interviewed the tourists who said they weren’t asked for proof of residency in America at inoculation centers, and some of them showed their national IDs or passports. The U.S. CDC says jurisdictions can’t add American citizenship requirements or require American citizenship verification as a condition for immunization.
COVID-19 epidemic has hard hit Peru and Mexico
Flavio San Martin, another Peruvian, tells CNN that if jab doesn’t come to you, then you should go to the vaccine. A business consultant, Flavio, traveled to Durham (a city in North Carolina) with his family on 13th April and received two shots of the Moderna vaccine.
San Martin said he is forty-six years old, and he doesn’t think he could be immunized in his country before December. He has seen people dying getting closer to home.
A 37-year-old from Mexico, Pamela Card, says she does not want to wait anymore to be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine in her home nation. She says that our family’s safety is more vital. She adds that with the vaccine, they could feel safe and less in panic. Moreover, she says she was immunized in Miami, along with her nine friends. Each was able to get online appointments to receive the Janssen vaccine at a pharmacy.
Card says that people have to fill in a simple form, they asked for an identity card to confirm the name, she showed her Mexican national ID and all done.
The COVID-19 epidemic has hard hit both Peru and Mexico. Johns Hopkins University data says Mexico has surpassed 2399800 cases, followed by Peru with over 1932260 cases. And while Mexico has fully protected just over 9 percent of its total population, Peru is too behind, with just over three percent of its population fully inoculated according to CNN’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker.
Increased Cost of an International Flight
According to the President of Peru’s Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies, Ricardo Acosta, flights from Lima (Peruvian capital) to America are entirely booked until June 2021. Demand is only likely to rise due to ‘vaccine tourism’.
Acosta said that the number of people touring from Peru to America had increased four times since February, from ten thousand in February to 40780 in April this year.
Flight charges have also increased. According to Acosta, the average price for an economy ticket from Lima to Miami was 500-700 dollars at this time of year. He says that these days, prices start from 1200 dollars and can even reach 4500 dollars. Usually, the high season for tours between Peru and America is usually July.