COVID vaccine tourism: Costa Rican couple flying to U.S. to get vaccinated

JACO, Costa Rica – David Karr is originally from Moses Lake. Now, he and his wife, Melissa, live in the tropical paradise of Jaco, Costa Rica. But there’s now trouble in paradise because COVID-19 cases in the country are spiking, hospitals are filling up fast and vaccine doses are nowhere to be found for almost any Costa Ricans.

“We’ve got an issue with the hospitals saturated, ICU beds. So it’s definitely an issue,” said Karr. “I mean, at a time when we need it the most, we just don’t have that option.”

So David and Melissa are doing what a lot of Latin Americans who can afford it are doing – booking flights to get vaccinated in the United States. It’s trend called COVID vaccine tourism.

David and Melissa are scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Los Angeles on Friday.

“For me, to fly to the U.S., make a quick trip, spend maybe a couple thousand dollars, I just feel like it’s not worth the risk, so I might as well just do it,” explained Karr.

But the vast majority of Latin Americans don’t have that luxury. That’s why earlier this week, President Joe Biden said the U.S. will share at least 20,000,000 vaccine doses with other countries by the end of June on top of the 60,000,000 Astrazeneca doses its already promised to share.

“We need to help fight the disease around the world to keep us safe here at home and do the right thing of helping other people. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. It’s the strong thing to do,” said President Biden.

For David and Melissa, getting vaccinated now provides a peace of mind they wouldn’t get in Costa Rica for about another year, when it’s expected to finally become available for their age group.

“We were going to get it eventually, but getting it that much sooner is even better.”