There has been a lot of talk about the concept of vaccine tourism, whereby those who are in a place where vaccines are in short supply book an expensive holiday somewhere that includes getting vaccinated. Well, Serbia seems to be taking a modified approach to this, as the country is vaccinating foreigners at no cost.
Serbia vaccinating foreigners
Daily Sabah reports that this weekend Serbia is giving away free coronavirus vaccines to visitors. This has caused an influx of foreigners, in particular from Bosnia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, who formed long lines yesterday at Belgrade’s main vaccination site.
Serbia has been doing a better job with vaccinating its population than most other countries in Europe, as around two million people (out of seven million) in Serbia have received at least one shot. The country has even donated vaccines to neighboring countries that haven’t had the same access to vaccines.
There are a few more interesting things about Serbia vaccinating foreigners:
- Serbia is primarily giving foreigners the AstraZeneca vaccine, while most Serbians are getting either the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine or the Russian Sputnik V vaccine
- Some say this is an attempt by Serbia to spread its influence over the region, while others say the AstraZeneca vaccines are nearing their expiration dates, so this is a way to unload them
- Apparently interest in the vaccine among Serbians is declining, so these vaccines may just be excess supply for now
- It’s not entirely clear if there’s a way for foreigners to get their second shot (the interval between shots is especially long for the AstraZeneca vaccine), or if the idea is just that people have at least some protection if they get one shot
Should you travel to Serbia to get vaccinated?
While most of Europe has remained closed to visitors for the past year, Serbia has remained open. The country was initially open with no restrictions for visitors, and nowadays just requires a PCR test prior to travel.
Air Serbia flies to New York
On the surface, a vaccine could be a great incentive for some people to travel to Serbia. It’s not like the vaccine as such is expensive, and the country would more than recover the cost of the vaccine in terms of the money that people would spend in the country.
It doesn’t seem like there’s any guarantee that Serbia will continue to offer vaccines to visitors simply on a walk-up basis. However, the country is letting visitors schedule vaccinations, as several readers have reported in the comments section.
This might not be so useful for those in the US given the current vaccine timeline here, but for those in other countries with a slower rollout, this could potentially be a reason to travel to Serbia.
I’m curious if the country does formalize some sort of a vaccine tourism program, because it seems like this has lots of potential.
Serbia is vaccinating foreigners for free this weekend. This seems to have mostly attracted those from neighboring countries without widespread vaccination.
However, the country has been letting foreigners schedule vaccine appointments further in advance as well. It seems like with some marketing surrounding this, we could see huge demand for travel to Serbia. Kudos to Serbia for the great job the country is doing with vaccine distribution.
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)