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Germany is the EU’s largest economy. With a gross domestic product (GDP) of USD 3.73 trillion and lies in fourth place in the world behind the US, China, and Japan.
It is also a world-leader in the pharmaceutical industry. According to a report by Simple Flying, Germany is presently experiencing a shortage of coronavirus vaccines, delaying its rollout among the German population. However, Lufthansa is said to be considering an exclusive and novel solution to this problem – vaccine tourism flights to Moscow.
The cost of the scheme would reportedly be around €1,000 ($1,566) per passenger.
‘Vaccine tourism’ is a form of health tourism (travelling across borders to obtain better healthcare/undergo medical procedures) that has seen significant growth in recent months. Namely, it refers to making a journey somewhere where one can be vaccinated against coronavirus at an earlier date than in one’s home country or state.
This can occur both on a domestic and an international level. For example, The Guardian reported last month that tens of thousands of Americans have been crossing state borders to increase their chances of being vaccinated sooner. This is because different federal states have different prioritization hierarchies in terms of which groups they deem to be most in need.
Earlier this month, it also emerged that Knightsbridge Circle, an exclusive, London-based ‘travel and lifestyle service,’ was offering vaccine tourism packages to the UAE. However, with Knightsbridge Circle membership costing GBP25,000 (USD 34,812) a year, this highlighted a fundamental elitism problem within vaccine tourism.
How would work Lufthansa’s proposed scheme? According to bne IntelliNews, German flag carrier Lufthansa is looking to combat the country’s vaccine rollout issues by offering vaccine tourism flights to the Russian capital of Moscow. These would reportedly depart from its hub at Frankfurt International Airport, and land at Moscow’s second-largest airport, Domodedovo.
A designated transit zone to vaccinate the passengers of these exclusive flights is said to have already been selected at Domodedovo. Passengers would enter this zone upon arrival, where they would be given the ‘Sputnik V’ vaccine. Having received the dose, they would then immediately return to Germany without coming into contact with other airport areas, having not needed to cross the border.
Like many coronavirus vaccines, recipients of Sputnik V require two doses. As such, passengers would need to make another trip to receive their second helping. The cost of these packages is said to be around EUR1,000 (USD1,566) each.
Lufthansa still has a range of bureaucratic obstacles to overcome before it can launch its proposed vaccine tourism flights.
At present, the scheme is little more than a proposal, as there are various bureaucratic processes that it would need to overcome. Perhaps the most significant of these is the need to arrange transit visas for the participants. It also still requires clearance from the Kremlin. Then there are moral obstacles to consider.
Much like the aforementioned UAE vaccine tourism trips, there is also an element of elitism to Lufthansa’s proposal. While the cost is not as eye-watering as Knightsbridge Circle’s GBP25,000 (AUD45,200) membership fee, it will still be prohibitive for many German citizens, effectively giving priority to people on the grounds of wealth. Nonetheless, Lufthansa is said to also be considering expanding the scheme to Zurich and Vienna. It will be interesting to see if it ever takes off.
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