Turkey, Armenia or Europe: where Tatarstan residents go to receive European vaccines

Pfizer, Sinovac or Astra Zeneca as new landmarks of Turkey, Armenia, Serbia, Hungary

Demand for new destinations in vaccine tourism is growing among Tatarstan residents. If in autumn tourists went to Europe to receive the vaccines approved by the WHO, now such a possibility is available in Turkey, Egypt, Georgia, Armenia and a number of countries. Moreover, in some of them it is much cheaper. So the Turkish authorities have been offering Pfizer or Sinovac vaccines for Russians who don’t live and don’t have residence permits in this country since the middle of January. Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent found out where else citizens of the republic go and what growth of such trips to get a jab experts predict in 2022.

400 lire per jab

The Turkish Ministry of Health Care published a letter on the website of the Association of Private Hospitals and Health Care Institutes about the beginning of vaccination of guests with the vaccines approved by the WHO. According to the reaction of the Association of Russian Tour Operators, tourists are expected in Istanbul, Antalya, Alanya, Kase and other cities where they can receive Pfizer or Sinovac.

Kazan tour operators and agencies are already selling vaccination tours to Turkey and other countries, confirmed President of the Association of Tour Agencies of Tatarstan Ramil Miftakhov:

“It isn’t a popular story, but there is demand, constant clients ask firms about the possibility of a trip. Nobody is advertising this product deliberately, it is a niche occurrence. Moreover, such countries as Serbia, Turkey, Armenia have an advantage, no visa is needed. Since flights to Europe had to be postponed, many don’t have a Schengen visa now. It is not a matter of money when choosing a country.”

A vaccination tour cannot be called cheap, an independent tourist can save money (when going only for a jab). However, some Tatarstan residents prefer combing two things — they go to a good hotel on holiday and simultaneously receive a vaccine they hope to get access to European countries and the USA later.

A vaccine will cost 400 lire. As a result, a tourist receives a certificate compatible with the European Green Pass system, which grants access to the countries that don’t recognise the Russian Sputnik V.

For instance, now tickets to Istanbul can cost up to 10,000 rubles from Kazan (however, this news sounds ironic given the recent collapse that suspended the operation of the new international airport of Istanbul (a third one), but at the same time it didn’t influence international flights from the Sabiha Gokcen Airport). Let’s add the inexpensive hotel, meals and the vaccine itself, the sum isn’t big.

Professionals say that vaccination tours are now offered from Kazan to Istanbul including accommodation in a three-star hotel for two nights, a dose of the vaccine, transfer to the airport, hotel and clinic and a Russian-speaking guide.

Such a trip will on average cost 45,000 for two people. Any service can be added to the tour including a transfer to the clinic, linguistic service, a fee for adding data about the tourist to the system when receiving the first dose of the vaccine, this will cost 115 euro.

Appointment in the clinic, side symptoms, linguistic barrier, return in two weeks

What problems can a Russian tourist have during a vaccination tour, for instance, in the same Turkey? Because such a trip has its drawbacks too. Firstly, it is necessary to make an appointment yourself. Secondly, one should speak at least English (but another language cannot be used everywhere). Thirdly, nobody is protected from side effects, especially if you already received the Russian vaccine, plus, the trip itself is stressful. Fourthly, there must be received two jabs, which means one has to return in three weeks to Turkey. The longest validity period of a COVID-19 certificate in Europe is 9 months, moreover, in Greece for instance, it is valid only for 7 months.

Moreover, some tourists complain that they don’t receive a paper certificate after vaccination, only an electronic one in the Turkish app Hayat Eve Şigar, access to its can obtained only with a Turkish SIM card for $10-12.

The Moscow option of such a tour costs 46,400 rubles on average (flight, accommodation in a three-star hotel for two nights in the city centre with breakfast, transfer from the airport to the hotel, vaccination, Russian-speaking guide and accompaniment). It is no surprise that the total percentage of vaccination travellers is just a tenth part of one per cent.

To compare, a flight from Moscow to Serbia costs 22,000. Moreover, the vaccination itself is free like in other countries (Turkey is an exception).

Earlier, only hotels or hostels made appointments for tourists in Serbia, but now the access to the vaccination is free, no appointment is needed. Tourists are vaccinated every day.

In Turkey, mostly Russian tourists living at resorts for a long time prefer vaccination with Pfizer or Sinovac in Turkey. For instance, Alexander S. received the first jab in Antalya:

“No certificates are needed, there is no queue, Turkish is not needed,” the man told Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent. “Any vaccine can be received, whichever you want. A booster shot after the Sputnik isn’t a problem. But this won’t give you the European Green PASS, since nowadays the system doesn’t allow considering the Sputnik as the first vaccine before the booster. I don’t feel side effect, there is a slight pain at the injection site as if my biceps was hit.”

Moreover, another dose can be received in another city of Turkey, the tourist said.

A similar scheme is used in Armenia where two-dose vaccination with Astra Zeneca or Moderna can be done. The vaccines are administered in Yerevan’s shopping malls. Russians are offered a booster after two doses of the Sputnik.

Radif Kashapov

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