Vaccine tourism: International travelers visiting San Francisco for free COVID vaccines

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif .– Forget the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf. A vaccination clinic at the San Francisco airport has become a tourist destination where hundreds of people land and get vaccinated.

“It’s hard to get vaccinated in the Philippines, so it’s easier to come here and hit two birds at the same time. You are traveling as a tourist and at the same time getting vaccinated. It’s easy,” said the tourist. Roqzanne Tan.

Tan was unable to get vaccinated in her home country, so she traveled over 15 hours to land in San Francisco. She entered a CVS and got vaccinated.

Another popular option is the SFO vaccination clinic where tourists receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Monday through Friday.

“When we look at the appointments that are made at our medical clinic where we distribute the vaccine, 80% of the new appointments are actually non-US nationals. It is therefore a very interesting trend, ”said OFS spokesperson Doug Yakel.

Since May, the OFS has administered more than 1,000 vaccines to tourists from 58 countries. They say the majority are from Taiwan and Mexico.

“Because in Mexico there is no plan. In Mexico they are very slow, they work slowly,” said Mexican tourist Israel Gomez.

As the Delta variant spreads across the world, SFO has now become an unexpected vaccination hub. Over the past month, they have started to adapt their website to some of the major markets to encourage travel.

“First, it allows those doses of Johnson & Johnson to be put to good use. This allows them not to be wasted, ”Yakel said.

Travel agent Edward Siu has received several calls to inquire about travel incentives and says the price is high but worth it as COVID cases are on the rise in many of these countries.

“It only costs them around $ 4,000 – $ 5,000 is the most,” said Siu of Classics Tours.

The SFO hopes accessible vaccines will also help boost the economy, but Siu says one dose is not enough.

“It’s not because honestly only hotels benefit, airlines benefit but other than that people don’t do the tours because they get vaccinated and they go,” Siu said.

But the word spread quickly.

“My friend also came with me to get the vaccine,” Tan says. “But she returned to the Philippines.”

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