Lately the United States has been called the “promised land,” although it already was for many migrants who continue to seek the American dream. But this time it is not a purely economic issue, but rather a public health issue.
American—the country hit the worst by the COVID-19 pandemic, at a point having bodies stored in refrigeration units on the streets of New York—is now a destination that attracts thousands of travelers seeking to inoculate themselves against SARS-CoV-2.
Although the pandemic stopped the aviation industry in its tracks at the beginning of 2020, causing billions in losses, it is curiously the same health crisis that is reactivating the aeronautical sector. And it is destinations in the United States that are the most attractive, due to vaccine availability.
More than 63% of US adults have received at least one dose of available vaccines, and 42% are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The goal is that 70% of American adults have received at least one dose by the holiday of July 4, the country’s Independence Day.
On the other hand, in Latin America and the Caribbean only 4% of the population has completed their vaccination schedule, said Carissa Etienne, head of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
United States President Joe Biden last week urged citizens to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with new incentives. “All over the world, people are desperate to get an injection, which any American can get at their neighborhood pharmacy,” Biden said in a speech from the White House to report on progress in the immunization process.
Despite the rapid start of the vaccination campaign, the daily rate has slowed significantly, going from an average of 3.3 million doses administered per day in April to 1.2 million last week.
No residence to get vaccinated
In the US, 28 states do not ask for residency to be able to generate an appointment to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The requirements to access immunization can be reviewed on the websites of each State Department of Health.
The states that do not ask for residency to get vaccinated are: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.
Tickets and lodging
The US was already the most visited destination of Ecuadorians. The North American nation is one of the best connected with the country. JetBlue Airways, American Airlines and Eastern Airlines are the airlines that currently offer direct routes from Guayaquil or Quito to cities such as Fort Lauderdale or Miami (Florida) and New York.
Spirit Airlines (Fort Lauderdale) only operates from Guayaquil; Delta Air Lines (Atlanta) and United Airlines (Houston), only fly from Quito. In addition, to direct travel to the US, you can also travel from Ecuador through connections in Bogotá (Avianca), Panama City (Copa), Lima (Latam), or Mexico City (Aeroméxico, only from Quito).
The prices per flight vary, rising steadily the closer it gets to specific departure date. Also, you need to analyze the type of airline you will be using and your goals. For example, if you only plan to travel to get vaccinated, you can choose to go to Fort Lauderdale on Spirit Airlines (low cost) or JetBlue Airways. In these cases, you can save a little if you do not have luggage in the hold, and your trip is about four days to get inoculated with the single-dose vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.
In any case, you should review the baggage policies of each airline to know the total cost of the ticket.
If you want to avoid the whole process of looking for accommodation for your trip, you can turn to travel agencies. For example, the You Travel Agency offers packages starting at $549 for three days, which include airport transfers, accommodation and breakfast. This price does NOT include the cost of your air ticket.
Another group, the Solcaribe Travel Agency, offers a seven-night tour with air ticket, lodging, and transfers to the vaccination center for prices starting at $1,299.
Where to get vaccinated
You can get the vaccine without an appointment at pharmacies like CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Publix, and Kroger. However, you can also make a specific appointment at any of those pharmacies or sites offered by the CDC. They can generally be scheduled up to two days in advance.
The White House launched the “National Month of Action” last Wednesday, in which local governments, national organizations, political leaders, personalities and influencers from different fields will be involved.
Among the announced measures are the extension of pharmacy hours, free childcare in nurseries for adults to get vaccinated and even a tour with the Vice President, Kamala Harris, under the slogan “We can get it,” to encourage vaccination.
It will also facilitate the administration of doses in barbershops and beauty salons frequented by the black population, and the company Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser, has promised a free beer for everyone who gets vaccinated on July 4th.
Two weeks ago, the White House unveiled an alliance with the main dating applications, such as Tinder and OKCupid, to encourage young people to get vaccinated.
American added flights for “vaccination tourism”
Flights to the United States have had a better recovery in the midst of this pandemic compared to other international routes that leave Ecuador. The high demand even led American Airlines to incorporate a third daily flight between Guayaquil and Miami that started last Thursday.
In the 30 years of operation of American in Ecuador, it is the first time that it has offered a third frequency. And it not only incorporated the new evening service in Guayaquil, it also added a third flight from Quito to and from Miami, meaning it now has six flights between the two countries every day.
The first flight of the new frequency left Guayaquil this last week in a Boeing 737 MAX with capacity for 172 travelers. There were 144 passengers onboard, which is equivalent to an occupancy of 84%.
With the new flights, the airline has increased its seating capacity by 49.6% in Guayaquil and 48.1% from Quito.
“Miami is one of American’s most important international connection centers in the United States, so Ecuadorians will have more options to travel and connect with more than 110 destinations,” said Edwin Rincón, American’s Commercial Manager for Ecuador and Colombia.
Among the passengers who on the inaugural evening flight were those who were going to Miami to try to receive the doses against the coronavirus during their stay. One passenger commented that he planned to get vaccinated in Miami these days while visiting relatives.
Tourism for vaccines is one of the reasons that American increased its trips to Florida from Ecuador, and other Latin American countries.
In fact, at the Miami airport a temporary vaccination clinic is now operating at the Miami airport. Without an appointment, anyone over the age of 18 can receive a vaccination at this terminal. The Pfizer vaccine was offered in May and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is offered this month.
Within Florida, vaccination centers do not ask for proof of residency in the state, so tourists can access the inoculation.