Monday, May 17, 2021

Vaccine Limbo

We have entered a rather strange limbo period where it is still possible for the unvaccinated to move freely around the world. 

How long this will last is moot. Much hot air has been leaked into the atmosphere on the subject of vaccine passports and, although implementation undoubtedly poses numerous challenges, I suspect that even the act of travelling in order to get vaccinated may become problematic during the course of 2022. 

It is worth noting that on an individual level at least, the various vaccines do not represent a complete solution. I know of at least one person in Guatemala who died from covid after a single dose of Astra Zeneca and I have a close friend in the US who was seriously ill and hospitalised after his first dose of Pfizer. The way out of the current situation is via herd immunity on a national and then international level. 

In percentage terms, Israel remains the most-vaccinated country in the world, with 63% of residents having at least one shot. It is followed by Mongolia (54.25%) and the UK (53.87%). The US is fifth at 47%. 

Unfortunately it seems that in the short to medium term most Guatemalan citizens are going to have access to Sputnik V alone. I would counsel against this particular vaccine except perhaps as a last resort. Those with the means to seek alternatives, even foreign residents, should indeed seek them.

Right now there is a window of opportunity of sorts in the USA, where nearly half of all adults have been jabbed, but uptake has slowed, especially in Red states.

Three potential destinations for vaccine tourism immediately present themselves for anyone located in Guate: Texas, Florida and New York. 

Texas is currently vaccinating everyone over the age of 12 regardless of citizenship or residency. In practice, other than slightly unpredictable pop-ups (more in Dallas than Houston) this means turning up at a pharmacy, some of which are accepting walk-ins. 

If you need to make a reservation online you have to provide an address, and in some instances a social security number. In other words there remains a degree of trickiness that makes it rather hard to plan a brief, in and out expedition. 

The Texas vaccine availability map and the Vaccine Spotter are essential tools. 

Based on a minimal amount of research, I would say that Galveston would be the place to head to in the Lone Star State. It has a beach, it is relatively pleasant compared to Houston or Dallas, and seems to have sufficient quantities of the one-shot J&J vaccine at its various pharmacies. But the situation undoubtedly changes from day to day. 

Florida is on paper only vaccinating its own residents and anyone in the state who can claim to be there for the purpose of offering a service. But they recently stopped asking for proof of the latter, so in other words they are inviting vaccine tourists to come on down and duly lie about this. I would strongly recommend against this subterfuge. 

The mayor of North Miami went public the other day with an open invitation to the unvaccinated of Latin America to visit his city and get their jabs and was quickly forced to back-track. 

There have been some pop-up vaccination events on the beach targeting visitors from down south, but these appear to be unpredictable and over-subscribed, given the popularity of this location with Latin Americans. 

Meanwhile, New York City's mayor appears to be specifically targeting tourists with a series of pop-up J&J vaccination days at major venues like Grand Central Station and Times Square. 

Participating visitors are even being offered a free seven day Metro card as an incentive, and De Blasio has suggested that the programme will be pursued until at least the end of July in a bid to kick-start those parts of the metropolitan economy that have traditionally depended on out-of-towners. 

It's not clear to me whether the law of the state allows non-citizens to make a reservation at a pharmacy outside of this initiative. 

Somewhat counter-intuitively, air fares to New York City from Aurora during the next couple of months are currently priced less expensively than those to either Miami or Houston. (c$250, at baggage minimum.) 

It will be a while before the effect of certain novel variants on the vaccine roll-outs in the UK and the US becomes fully apparent. 

One shot of Pfizer is said to reduce transmission by 50%. Useful, but possibly not decisive. My own anecdotal experience is that one dose of Pfizer or Moderna could be protective enough for those that have already had covid. I am a bit less confident with regards to Astra Zeneca. Mixing vaccines is probably going to be beneficial in the long run. 

The UK is likely to act as an open air experiment when it comes to the so-called Indian variant. Some parts of England have seen a threefold increase in infections last week in spite of the fact that half the adult population has now received at least one jab, generally of Astra Zeneca. 

By allowing the virus to work exclusively on the younger part of the population could result in mutations resulting in more severe disease for children and adolescents. 

I'm running late for my own NHS-allocated first Astra Zeneca shot. I was seriously considering heading across the pond at some stage this year so as not to miss out, but the further we get into 2021 the less appealing a three month sojourn in England turns out to be. (That or doing the journey twice in the space of 12 weeks.)

1 comment:

norm said...

They have walk-ins at most places here in Ohio. A red state with a governor who took the virus seriously, the state has extra because it has an excess of bumpkins and the governor ordered enough for all of Ohio's people.

Ohio is pretty nice in the summer.