With uptake of Russia’s coronavirus shot Sputnik V sluggish among its own citizens, Russia is considering launching Covid vaccination travel packages for tourists.
Russian state news agency Tass cited one of the country’s tourism industry chiefs as saying the “vaccination tours” were ready, but that visas and entry requirements for foreign visitors were holding them up.
“The product is ready, but the issues of visa support and legal entry for foreigners wishing to receive the Russian vaccine are yet to be resolved,” Andrei Ignatyev, president of the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RUTI), told Tass.
The price of a three-week vaccine tour for foreigners will range between $1,500 to $2,500, excluding airline costs, Ignatyev added.
Vaccination tours appear to have the blessing of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Speaking at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) last week, Putin tasked the government with looking into the feasibility of offering paid-for Covid vaccinations to foreign visitors to Russia.
Russia is keen to revive its tourism industry as it looks to exit the Covid pandemic. Like other countries around the globe, Russia introduced entry restrictions for almost all foreigners (with exceptions for some workers) last March, bringing tourism to a halt. It has since eased entry restrictions provided that visitors present negative Covid tests before travel.
Vaccine tourism could prove popular for people in countries that have struggled to get their own immunization programs off the ground. The Times of India reported last month that a Delhi-based travel agency was offering a 24-day package tour to Russia which included two shots of the Sputnik V vaccine and a 21-day interval to allow for sight-seeing between the shots.
Slow domestic uptake
Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine — its own, Sputnik V — last August, but despite the speedy approval and rollout, uptake of the shot domestically has been sluggish.