Vaccine tourism: Costa Ricans visit the US to get their shots

‘Give me your tired, your unvaccinated, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’

Thousands of U.S. Americans visit Costa Rica each year for cheap, accessible healthcare. Now, Ticos are returning the favor.

In Costa Rica, most adults still aren’t eligible for their coronavirus vaccine. The country has administered 15.8 doses per 100 people, well behind the United States (70), Chile (75), Uruguay (48), Canada (33) and others.

Some Costa Ricans — and citizens of other Latin American countries — are taking matters into their own hands.

“People of means from Latin America are chartering planes, booking commercial flights, buying bus tickets and renting cars to get the vaccine in the United States because of a lack of supply at home,” USA Today reports.

Many U.S. states don’t require proof of residency for the vaccine, meaning tourists are ostensibly eligible.

“For them, it’s like giving away a piece of candy,” Santiago, a Costa Rican, told Teletica. He said he received his first vaccine dose at a Miami-area Walgreens and was planning a return trip for the second.

“It was very easy, and in Costa Rica it would have taken a long time to be vaccinated,” said Karen Neitzen, who traveled with her family to the U.S.

Several Costa Rica-based travel agencies are even advertising vaccine tourism packages. For about $1,200, the company will arrange the flights and hotel, plus help to schedule the vaccine. They say Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina are popular states for these trips.

And as for legality? Medical tourism in general poses plenty of ethical questions, and “vaccine vacations” are no different. Some states, such as Alaska, are endorsing vaccine tourism. Others, like Florida, have implemented residency requirements.

Ultimately, the vaccine is free to anyone who receives it in the United States. Even the uninsured cannot be charged for the shots, and many states have a surplus of doses.

And quite a few Costa Ricans are taking advantage.

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