Vietnamese travel firms offer Covid vaccination tours to US

Vietnamese travel firms offer Covid vaccination tours to US

A person receives a dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., April 6, 2021. Photo by Reuters/Carlos Barria.

 Vietnam travel agencies are launching "vaccine tours" to the U.S. to boost a hobbled tourism industry, with some states allowing foreigners to receive Covid-19 jabs.

Hong Ngoc Ha Travel Company, headquartered in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), became the first Vietnamese travel agency to launch a vaccine tour aimed at high-income tourists and those wishing to pay short-term visit or visit relatives, as well as access vaccines from the U.S.

The tour is advertised at a cost of nearly VND45 million ($1,950) for an eight-day trip, including one-way air ticket from HCMC to American cities like New York or Los Angeles, three-star standard hotel room and a single dose of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, Le Van Tri, head of the company’s media department said.

The jabs developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna require a two-dose regimen with a 21-day interval, while Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine needs only one dose, he added.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is about 66 percent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19, according to data released by the producer.

HCMC-based Fiditour is also planning to launch a coronavirus vaccine tour to the U.S.

Tran Thi Bao Thu, director of marketing and communications at Fiditour, said the company is working closely on the plan to ensure feasibility for visa application as well as guarantee return for visitors. Details about the tour are expected to be released at the end of this month.

Fiditour's caution in launching the new tour is based on concern about obtaining return air tickets because of limited commercial flights and high costs due to the pandemic.

Tri said the total cost for the vaccine tour, including entry fees, quarantine and Covid-19 testing as well as air tickets for the return journey could rise to VND170 million ($7,000) per person.

Vu The Binh, deputy chairman of Vietnam Tourism Association, said currently the sale of vaccine tours to the U.S. is not banned, but that tourists returning to Vietnam will have to comply with pandemic protocols as regulated by the health ministry, including 21-day centralized quarantine and Covid-19 testing.

Starting May 5, Vietnam had extended its quarantine policy from 14 to 21 days for foreign arrivals as the country grappled with its fourth coronavirus wave.

The U.S. is offering supporting policies on Covid-19 vaccination for international visitors in an effort to bring visitors back; therefore, it is not difficult to register for injections at medical facilities.

People aged two years and older can enter the U.S. as long as they present a negative Covid-19 test done within three days before entry or have been treated for Covid-19 within 90 days before departure. They are also exempt from centralized isolation.

While poor and low-income countries are struggling to secure enough vaccine doses due to a lack of supply, the U.S. is outpacing the rest of the world in its vaccination roll-out campaign as 47 percent of adults were fully inoculated as of this month, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several travel agencies in Thailand are selling coronavirus "vaccine tours" to the U.S. while travelers from Mexico, Argentina to Latin America are booking flights there to take advantage of one of the world's most successful vaccination campaigns.

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