SAN FRANCISCO - In nations where getting a vaccine is a difficult proposition, especially as people are dying at alarming rates, more foreigners are looking to take advantages of America's vaccine surplus through what's called "vaccine tourism."
In fact, "vaccine tourism" is the fastest-growing category of visitors to the San Francisco International Airport's medical clinic.
Airport officials say that many people have flown and continue to fly to SFO as so-called ‘vaccine tourists.' A Thai travel agency offers $6,400 vaccine trips to the U.S. At SFO, they get the free, single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.
"About 80% of our new appointments at our medical clinic are for non-U.S. citizens and they are…this is what we call vaccine tourism. People that are making a vaccine either part of their trip or the reason for their trip into the San Francisco Bay Area," said SF Airport spokesman Doug Yakel.
Most of the vaccine tourists coming are from south of our border and Asia; but in reality, they come from all over the world. "We've given out about a thousand doses now to people from 58 countries around the world. So, it's really on the rise," said Mr. Yakel.
Jum Takase and some friends from Tokyo, where vaccines are in very short supply, came here to study at SF State where vaccinations are required.
"Right now, most Japanese people can't get vaccinated right now, That's why probably, if they have a chance to come here to the U.S., they get vaccinated," said Mr. Takase.
Gibson Arnold, from Southern California, got a shot and a negative PCR test required by Hawaii. "I looked over in Los Angeles forever and couldn't find any places. Came here a couple of days before we're heading out to Hawaii and this was the place that came up online and this was the only place I could find," said Mr. Arnold.
Some 20 U.S. states don't require you to even live in the state to be vaccinated there, including California. Alaska announced, starting in June it would provide free COVID vaccines upon arrival at any of its four major airports.
New York City's mayor, announced pop-up vaccination sites at tourist spots. "It's a worldwide problem and San Francisco airport can help solve it , then good for them," said Arnold.
Only five nations; the U.S., Russia, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and Bali in Indonesia, offer COVID-19 vaccines to tourists.