Aeroméxico reported that passenger traffic between Mexico and the United States increased 35% from March to April.
“Are you interested in the vaccine against COVID-19? Do you have an American visa? Ask us! ”Says the ad from a travel agency, which offers to Mexicans to fly to the United States to get immunized.
From Mexico to Argentina, thousands of Latin Americans are booking flights to the United States to take advantage of one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, while strategies in their own countries falter.
Latin America is one of the regions most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with a death toll that will exceed one million this month, and many do not want to continue waiting their turn to be vaccinated.
Some people go on their own, while others have turned to travel agencies, which have responded by offering packages with the appointment for the vaccine, flights, hotel stay, and even extras such as sightseeing and shopping.
Gloria Sánchez, 66, and her husband, Ángel Menéndez, 69, traveled to Las Vegas in late April to get immunized with the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.
“We do not trust the public medical services in this country,” said Sánchez, back in Mexico. “If I hadn’t gone to the United States, where it gave me a little more security, I wouldn’t have been vaccinated here.”
A travel agent in Mexico City organized the trip and a partner company in Las Vegas took care of the procedures in the United States, Sánchez explained.
The US-based partner arranged for them to get vaccinated and then took them to a Las Vegas convention center, where they presented their Mexican passports and were immunized.
“We decided to also take it as a few days off, so we went all week. We walked like crazy, we ate dearly and well, we did some shopping, ”explained Sánchez.
Due to booming demand, prices for flights from Mexico to the United States have risen between 30% and 40% since mid-March, said Rey Sánchez, who runs the RSC Travel World travel agency.
“There are thousands of Mexicans and thousands of Latin Americans who have gone to the United States to vaccinate,” he said, adding that the main destinations have been Houston, Dallas, Miami and Las Vegas.
Reuters could not find official data on how many Latin Americans are going to the United States to get vaccinated. Travelers do not usually indicate immunization as a reason for travel.
But American cities have picked up on the trend, which is bringing much-needed business to cash-strapped hotels, restaurants, and other service activities.
“Welcome to New York, your vaccine is waiting for you! We will administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in iconic locations in our city, ”the New York government announced on Twitter on May 6.
The US embassy in Peru recently reported on Twitter that travelers could visit the country for medical treatment, including vaccinations, depending on each state.
Latin Americans with whom Reuters spoke and who have traveled on a tourist visa to the United States said they could obtain the vaccines with identity documents from their countries of origin.
In Argentina, tourism agencies are also selling vaccination trips.
An advertisement in Buenos Aires details the estimated cost of getting vaccinated in Miami: plane ticket $ 2,000, hotel for a week $ 550, food $ 350, car rental $ 500, vaccination $ 0. That works out to a total of $ 3,400.
NO HOPE FOR A VACCINE SOON
Although at first, it was mostly wealthy Latin Americans who wanted to travel, more and more people are booking the packages. For many, the cost of long flights makes it an important decision.
“I’m raising money to travel to California in June,” said a worker at an auto parts store in Lima, who asked not to be named for fear it could jeopardize his travel plans. “As things are going here, there is no hope of a prompt vaccination,” he lamented.
The slowness of vaccination in most Latin American countries was one of the most cited reasons for traveling to the United States.
With little or no infrastructure to manufacture vaccines, inoculation campaigns in Latin America have been hampered by delays and shortages of supplies.
The United States has administered almost 262 million doses, about 2.3 times the number of vaccines applied throughout Latin America, which has about twice the population, according to figures from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the site. Our World in Data.
Distrust in vaccination campaigns in Latin America is also a factor, according to some people consulted by Reuters.
News about batches of fake vaccines seized by authorities, apocryphal injections administered to patients, or the lack of availability of the second required dose when the time comes is some of the reasons for the distrust of Latin Americans.
Vaccine tourism has fueled a jump in air travel to the United States, with fares for some last-minute flights that have doubled or even tripled since January, as airlines increase capacity, according to René Armas Maes, MIDAS commercial vice president. Aviation, a London-based consultancy.
LATAM Airlines Group, the largest airline in the region, said Thursday that it is seeing an increase in demand from South American residents who want to travel to the United States to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Aeroméxico said passenger traffic between Mexico and the United States increased 35% from March to April.
American Airlines also said that it has seen demand grow rapidly in Latin America in recent months and that it had increased its capacity, especially to Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico.
“We are matching the increased demand in many of these markets, with additional frequencies, new routes, or with the use of wide-body aircraft, resulting in increased capacity,” said American Airlines.
For Giuliana Colameo, 29, the prospect of getting vaccinated was a relief after she and her boyfriend in Mexico City were infected with the coronavirus in 2020.
They both traveled to New York, where they got vaccinated at a pharmacy late last month. He said they were the only two people to get the vaccine.
“When they give you the vaccine it’s like you almost really cry, it’s a bit of relief, it gives you hope, it’s exciting,” said Colameo. “I am very happy to have done it and I hope that more people can do it,” he added.