Russians’ distrust of their Russian vaccine has prompted them to travel to various European countries for vaccination.
One example of this practice is Croatia, which is one of the countries that offers free vaccines to all, including foreigners, which has led to a significant increase in flights from Russia to Zagreb, as many Russians are willing to receive a vaccine that is widely recognized in the European Union.
The Russian travel agency Russian Express launched vaccination tours in Croatia in late September, and demand has grown since then. Russian citizens can get Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, which is offered in a single dose, free of charge and without prior registration. The four-day stay can be supplemented with a tourist trip through the package that costs no more than 439 euros.
Every week, about 60 Russian citizens arrive in Croatia with a single goal – to be vaccinated against COVID-19. They can choose whether they want to get the vaccine in Zagreb or Pula, and can end their four-day stay with a touristic tour.
Croatia has thus become the most popular destination in the European Union for “vaccination tours” for the Russian market. The reason is simple: in Russia they can only be vaccinated with a Russian vaccine that is not recognized by many EU and world countries, in Croatia vaccination is free and they have all the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, including Johnson & Johnson, which is accepted in only one dose, so that Russian tourists do not need to travel again for another dose, which requires double the cost. After vaccination, they receive an EU certificate for COVID that guarantees them the opportunity to travel to the EU and other countries around the world.
Shortly after the public call for vaccination in Croatia, the information about the possibility of vaccination began circulating in Russia. Many forums have started sharing instructions on how to get vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson for free, without prior registration: “Just come to the checkpoint and line up, get vaccinated and then wait 15 minutes to avoid side effects”.
It did not take long for travel agencies to recognize the interest and offer vaccine tours, as they are called in the Russian Express agency. On their website, tours in Croatia have been singled out as one of the most attractive offers. “Russian citizens were vaccinated mainly with the Sputnik V vaccine, which was not approved by the World Health Organization. It is therefore not possible to enter many European countries. Therefore, people are looking for vaccination options which are approved by the World Health Organization, and since in Croatia these vaccines can be obtained free of charge for foreigners, we decided to offer such a tourist product – tour vaccines. We have been offering such reservation tours since the end of September and the demand is great”, they say for Veqernje Novisti from Russian Express.
According to official statistics, thousands of Russians have been vaccinated in Croatia since the beginning of the pandemic.
“From April to October 2021, 4,908 foreigners, mostly Russians, were vaccinated here. During this month alone, we have had about 1,000 Russians who have received the vaccine,” the director of the vaccination center in Croatia, Dr. Neda Ferencic, told France24.
This trend is only growing, while in Russia the current situation regarding the pandemic remains worrying.