When Denis Ovchinnikov read the news that the Russian Sputnik V vaccine would not be recognized in Europe, he decided to travel to Belgrade. Ovchinnikov had made his trip to be vaccinated with Pfizer.
“I contacted a travel agency, which solved this issue for me. It was very easy. “I took a short break to get two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer,” said Ovchinnikov, who works in St. Petersburg.
When Russia became the country that registered and mass-produced a vaccine in late 2020, President Vladimir Putin hoped it would allow the country to open up faster than its Western rivals. But Sputnik V has struggled to gain international approval, effectively barring Russians from traveling west, where only those with vaccinations approved by the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom can visit.
This has led to a significant increase in Russian tourists going to be vaccinated in Serbia and other countries that allow visa-free travel from Russia.
“I believe in all vaccines. “I just felt stuck, for almost two years I was not able to travel and work in Europe after the borders closed, so that was my way out,” said Ovchinnikov, who received the vaccine for the first time. Sputnik V last winter.
The approval of the vaccine by the EU and the World Health Organization (WHO) would facilitate international travel for Russians vaccinated against Sputnik V, who are currently banned from traveling to most European capitals. The US has also decided to ban entry for those citizens who have not been vaccinated with those vaccines that have not been approved by the WHO or the US FDA.
However, the EU has repeatedly delayed the approval of the Russian vaccine and said that Russia has not provided all the data for Sputnik V to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Anna Filatovksaya, manager at the Russian Express travel agency, said Sputnik V’s problems abroad presented a business opportunity for her company.
“When we started offering our travel package to get vaccinated, we quickly realized that this is a big market. “People were desperate, they want a vaccine that will allow them to travel again,” said Filatovksaya.
In a recent study conducted in Russia, about 40 percent of respondents said the opportunity to travel freely was the main reason for being vaccinated.
Filatovksaya adds that Serbia was a “clear” option from the beginning, as Russians are not required to have a visa to go there to be vaccinated with Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
However, Serbia is not the only destination for the Russians. After some clients complained about a three-week gap to be injected with two doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca, Filatovksaya’s travel agency decided to offer trips to neighboring Croatia, which offers foreigners the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
One of those who traveled to Croatia was Oleg Sentsov, an engineer from Moscow. “In fact, I was immunized with a dose [Johnson & Johnson] “after taking three doses of Sputnik V,” said Sentsov.
While for many people like Ovchinnikov and Sentsov, a dose of Western vaccines is a way out of isolation, as they did not trust Russian vaccines.
“I thought that if I got a vaccine, it would not be Sputnik V. I am skeptical of products made in Russia,” said Marina Kalushiva, 54, who traveled to Serbia to be vaccinated.
Although domestically produced vaccines are widely available, only 32 percent of Russians have been vaccinated with the second dose, and polls show that most of them are not yet ready to be immunized, as they do not trust the three approved vaccines. and produced within Russia.
Critics have blamed the failure of the vaccination campaign on the Kremlin’s mixed messages about the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as low trust in authorities and locally produced products.
To be part of the group »AOL“just click: Join Group and your request will be approved immediately.