Plane, hotel and vaccine: Mexicans indulge in health tourism in the United States

A woman receives the vaccine in Chicago in early April.CARLOS BARRIA (Reuters)

Gabriela Santos, 32, was sent on a work trip to Miami in mid-April and took the opportunity to explore the possibility of getting vaccinated. Another colleague from the same public relations company had told her that it was not so easy for non-residents and had given her advice: “There is a Mexican woman who is looking for pharmacies in the Latin quarters where you don’t ask you nothing. In exchange for $100, the lady secured an appointment for Santos at a facility near the airport. “They just asked me if I had health insurance, if I was pregnant or if I had any allergies. Nothing else,” he says over the phone, already back in Mexico City and with a plane ticket purchased for his second shot at Pfizer on May 6. For the second puncture, he will not even need the help of his compatriot because Florida has just this Friday completely liberalized vaccination. “I even have friends who go to Las Vegas for the weekend with a package that includes a plane, a hotel and a vaccine.”

Primero fueron los mexicanos más ricos del norte los que empezaron a montar viajes, casi de estraperlo, al otro lado de la frontera -sobre todo Texas o Arizona- para conseguir una vacuna y adelantarse al turno que les tocara según en plan de vacunación de su Country. As the months go by, and as more and more states open up vaccination to anyone who requests it, without imposing residency requirements, the number and profile of Mexicans who decide to launch their vaccination in the United States- United rise. covid drugs have jumped 70% since the door to more states was opened, according to the Mexican tourism employer.

“In the last month, I have almost sold more than during the whole year,” explains Giuliana Ibarra, 44, owner of the travel agency GiuTravel. Tourism, a sector particularly affected during the pandemic, has found a loophole in Mexico with these health trips. Agencies have been offering all-inclusive packages for weeks at around $600: plane, flight, car, and vaccine appointment. Texas, Arizona and Louisiana were the first destinations to open, followed by California, Nevada and Florida. “These are usually quick trips with this lens. Few stays for sightseeing,” adds Ibarra.

After the first vaccination, Santos felt relieved: “In Mexico, we don’t even know when it will affect us. Until recently, it looked like 30-somethings had to wait until next year. Now it looks like it has been brought forward to October or November. Shortages and supply issues have marked the early stages of Mexico’s immunization plan, which faces the challenge of vaccinating 117 million people for free. The government planned to vaccinate nearly 15 million people over the age of 60 and all health workers before the end of March, but the deadlines were nevertheless extended until May. With 12 million inhabitants already vaccinated, Mexico is placed in a medium-low position in the table of doses applied per 100,000 inhabitants.

Chile, with a population of nearly 19 million and agreements for 35 million doses, leads the continental ranking. The United States follows. They are also above Mexico, Argentina or Costa Rica. While it surpasses Colombia, which took longer than its neighbors to obtain the vials, or Peru, which experienced a scandal due to the secret vaccination of hundreds of influential people.

More than half of the adult population of the United States already has at least one dose of one of the three vaccines offered in the country: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, which was redistributed last weekend after 11 restriction days due to rare thrombotic episodes. By July, the world powerhouse will have a surplus of 300 million injections, according to a report from the Duke Center for Global Health Innovation based on the contract the US government signed with AstraZeneca, which is about to secure the permission from the health authorities. In this surplus scenario, the United States has already announced that it will donate 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries.

Meanwhile, in late March, the Mexican government corrected the actual death toll from the pandemic upwards to more than 321,000. Roberto Anaya, 35, a purchasing manager at a department store, was hit hard by the death of several members of his family. Three weeks ago, he also decided to launch vaccine research in the United States: “I took a trip to New York and took advantage of it. It took me a while to get the appointment online, but on the second try I was successful”. An ad has already started running to neighbors to spend Vaccination Weekend in Las Vegas.

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