Chinese travelers ready to go abroad for Western mRNA vaccines

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Passengers prepare to enter Shenzhen through the Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Center on the first day of the resumption of normal travel between Hong Kong and mainland China on January 8, 2023 in Hong Kong .

Li Zhihua | China News Service | Getty Images

Mainland China’s move away from its zero-Covid policy has led to a sharp increase in infections, and the resumption of travel means some are looking further afield for vaccines.

In mid-December, China’s full Covid vaccination rate stood at nearly 87%, an increase of 54%. The main Covid vaccines approved for use in China are from Sinovac and Sinopharm.

Mainlanders have been flocking to Macao in recent months for Western mRNA vaccines, which are widely given around the world but not approved by China.

But even if patients tried to book an appointment as early as mid-December, the next available slots are at the Macau University of Science and Technology Hospital, the only place offering jabs to patients -tours, as far as February.

Analysts expect the list of destinations for vaccine tourism to grow.

‘First natural destination’: Hong Kong

“I believe that Hong Kong is the first natural destination for China’s vaccine tourism. It will then spread to Asia and the US, possibly expanding to Europe,” Sam Radwan, president of management consultancy Enhance International, told CNBC.

“It’s been a long time since I went to Hong Kong. I can take a vacation, as well as get vaccinated. Won’t this kill two birds with one stone? Without saying more, I’m ordered and I’m getting ready,” a man from Shaanxi province posted Friday on Chinese social media website Weibo.

Hong Kong CEO John Lee said in a press release in late December that the city “has reached a relatively high level of vaccination,” adding that they “have enough medicine to fight Covid.”

But Hong Kong will not offer free Covid vaccines to short-term travelers.

“We want to prevent visitors to Hong Kong from using the vaccines at the expense of Hong Kong residents and we will not offer government-provided vaccines for free to non-Hong Kong residents ,” Hong Kong government officials said, adding that visitors must wait at least 30 days to get a booster shot.

Our recent research suggests that Hong Kong and Thailand could benefit the most from the international tourism channel if China removes visa restrictions and outbound travel normalizes gradually

Expect to see a wave of mainlanders travel to Hong Kong to get the jabs, said Lam Wingho, a member of the Hong Kong Scientific Committee on Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, according to a local media report.

Lin said he received a steady stream of questions from citizens wanting to know how mainland Chinese relatives could get vaccinated in Hong Kong, he was reported as saying.

Thailand is another viable destination for vaccine tourists, and the country is among the top destinations for the Chinese to travel to, including Japan, South Korea, the US and Singapore. .

Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister said at the end of December that he was considering offering free vaccinations to foreign tourists who request photo enhancements.

And there is interest from the Chinese.

“At first I didn’t plan to go to Thailand, but because of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, I’m thinking of going,” said a Shanghai-based Weibo user on the news.

Another Weibo user who lives in Beijing wrote that such a policy move would not only “help attract tourists to Thailand,” but also offer more variety for inoculation. . “For mainland Chinese hoping for more vaccine options, they’ll be able to get vaccinated with the jabs they want. Win-win.”

“Going outside of China is definitely a big cure for the minds of many… I believe the Chinese will travel wherever they can get their medicine,” said Sam Radwan, president of co -Management consultancy Enhance International.

CFOTO | Future Publication | Getty Images

“On the spillover effects of China’s reopening, our recent study suggests that Hong Kong and Thailand could benefit the most from the international tourism channel if China removes visa restrictions and if outbound travel moderates,” Goldman Sachs wrote in a research note dated December 27.

“Going outside of China is definitely a big cure for the minds of many … I believe the Chinese will travel wherever they can find the medicine,” said Radwan of Enhance International.

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