Author: Heru Aspurhanto
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian Muhammad Risqy Putra has booked a trip to the U.S. for his own COVID-19 vaccination after failing to get vaccinated at home. Traveling abroad for the first time since the pandemic.
Wealthy residents of developing countries from Indonesia to Thailand to Mexico are preparing to travel abroad to get vaccinated more quickly as wealthy countries such as the United States roll out vaccinations more quickly.
“It just so happens that I haven’t been vaccinated here, so I might as well travel and get vaccinated there,” Muhammad Risqy, 25, told Reuters.
This will be his first visit to the United States. He will be accompanied by his parents, who also intend to be vaccinated.
Only 5% of Indonesia, or 8.8 million people, are fully vaccinated, government data show, as authorities struggle to reach a target of vaccinating 181.5 million people by the end of the year.
The rising number of COVID-19 cases in the world’s fourth most populous country also means “red zones” have prioritized vaccinations.
ATS Vacations, a travel agency that offers “vaccine tours”, estimates it has lost 75% of its business due to the pandemic, and says the tours are good for both industry and consumers.
Lilik Budiman, director of sales at ATS Vacations, said: “We are helping people who want to get vaccinated but are having difficulty. Since they want to travel at the same time, why not combine the two?”
The agency’s ad featured the “chance to get a free vaccine” next to a photo of a vial of J&J’s single-dose vaccine.
So far, more than 100 people have booked the tours, which will run from June to November and are contingent on people obtaining travel visas.
Costs for a minimum of eight-day trip range from $1,100 to $3,700, depending on whether the tour is group or private. Each group tour can accommodate up to 30 people.
For Dewiana, 33, who plans to travel with her husband at the end of September, having access to her favorite brand of vaccine is one of the reasons she wants to get her shot abroad.
“I understand from the brochure that the vaccine we’re going to get is from Johnson & Johnson,” she said.
Indonesia mainly uses China’s Sinovac vaccine and AstraZeneca vaccine to vaccinate people.
For those wealthy enough, the idea of traveling overseas to buy a vaccine is “common and not forbidden,” said Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia.
Michael Quinlan, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia, said: “Seeking medical treatment in the U.S. is a permissible purpose of travel for individuals with a valid visitor visa.”
(Reporting by Heru Asprihanto; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Tom Hogue)