NewsIn Russia, vaccination tours to Europe are booming

In Russia, vaccination tours to Europe are booming

European countries are very popular with Russian tourists as travel destinations. But vaccinated with their own corona preparations, they will not get very far there.

Moscow – Wazlaw is lucky: The 31-year-old Muscovite is employed by a German employer and recently got a free Biontech vaccination from his company doctor in Cologne.

“My wish was that my first shot of vaccine was a tested one, that is, one that got the green light from the WHO,” he told the German Press Agency. Now Wazlaw has an EU certificate – and that is what other compatriots want too. Evidence of immunization with the Russian corona vaccine Sputnik V is not recognized in many of your favorite travel countries.

Only a few countries in Europe have approved Sputnik itself, such as Hungary or San Marino. So in order to enjoy easier entry to restaurants, bars or theaters while on vacation, many would prefer to be injected with one of the western drugs. But they are not allowed in Russia.

Some Russian tour operators have now discovered this niche for themselves – and have added special vaccination tours to the West in their portfolio. The offer is booming: a total of five travel agencies have been offering it since mid-September – “and the demand is increasing every month,” as the director of the Association of Russian Travel Agents, Maja Lomidze, says of the dpa. Flight, overnight stay and vaccination appointment are organized in a medical facility – all together from 1000 euros. The preparation from Johnson & Johnson is particularly popular because it only requires one injection.

By the end of the year, Lomidze predicts, thousands of Russians will have flown to Croatia or Greece this way. In addition, there are numerous people who have organized the trip to the western corona vaccination on their own. Vaccination prices are also offered to Germany – albeit for a rather small, more affluent group: at least through the travel agents, the Piks there costs another 500 euros for Russians. But: “Many of our tourists trust Germany, the quality of the vaccines there and the quality of the service,” said Lomidse.

Russia itself now has five of its own vaccines – but none of them are recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA). An EU vaccination certificate, on the other hand, enables a carefree stay in many holiday countries. “People understand that there is a tendency towards easier travel for vaccinated people and want to be vaccinated with the preparations that are recognized by the WHO,” says Lomidze.

From a Russian point of view, everything should actually have gone the other way around: The Russian vaccine Sputnik V, once touted as the world’s best vaccine by President Vladimir Putin, was supposed to conquer the world, become an export hit – and attract Western vaccinees.

But hardly anyone remembers the pictures that Russian state television proudly broadcast at the beginning of the year: of Europeans who – when many in Germany had to wait for a vaccination appointment – arrived in Moscow to pick up their first syringe. And when Putin officially released Sputnik immunizations for foreigners at the international economic forum in St. Petersburg in June, the train had long since left.

For months, the EMA and WHO have been examining a possible approval of Sputnik – so far without any result. The lack of recognition in the West is fueling the already high level of skepticism among the Russian population towards the drug. After Russian politicians repeatedly railed about an allegedly politically motivated delay, the Kremlin now admitted that Moscow had actually failed to submit the necessary approval documents to the WHO and justified this with voting problems.

When it comes to the decision on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, according to experts, another complicating factor is that Russia does not want to share the data of its citizens with Europe.

In the largest country in the world in terms of area with its 146 million inhabitants, those immunized with Western preparations could at least slightly increase the quota of fully vaccinated people, which is still relatively low at 46 percent. In addition, Russians who have received a foreign vaccine should now also benefit from it in their home countries: In the future, they could do an antibody test and receive a corona certificate that is valid for six months, said Vice Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova recently.

This new regulation does not apply to foreigners – as do other easements of Covid restrictions. For example, when entering Russia – unlike Russians – they have to show a negative PCR test even if they have been vaccinated with Sputnik. dpa

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