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Guam offering “vaccine tourism” packages to help kickstart economy

HAGATNA, Guam — With its tourism trade gutted by the pandemic, Guam is raring to refill seashores and resorts once more. And as locations from New York to the Maldives to Russia dangle vaccinations to woo vacationers, the distant U.S. territory and tropical getaway is planning to launch a “vaccine tourism” initiative of its personal — however with a twist. 

Before the pandemic, Guam catered largely to Asian households in search of solar, sand and golf programs. But in current months, authorities seen American expatriates, often solo, arriving from nations within the area with sluggish vaccination rollouts. The American guests have been keen to endure up to two weeks’ obligatory quarantine at a government-run lodge for the possibility to rating a coveted vaccination. They would typically keep for up to a month so as to end their two-dose Pfizer or Moderna routine. 

So, officers seized on the possibility to leverage their uncommon location. At 5,800 miles west of the U.S. mainland, Guam occurs to be the closest piece of America to Asia. 

“Because we’re so close to the Philippines, we’re so close to Japan, Seoul, Korea, Taiwan, (we thought) that maybe this might be an opportunity to help in that world herd immunity,” Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero mentioned, talking on the island’s public mass vaccination website, the University of Guam Calvo Field House. A registered nurse, she personally administered the vaccine herself to a visiting CBS News workforce. 

“I kept up my license. I figured, if they fire me, I still have a job,” she mentioned.

Of the practically 9 million non-military Americans residing overseas, a little bit over 1 million are estimated to be based mostly in East Asia and the Pacific. If even just a few of these will be lured to Guam — a couple of four-hour flight from Taiwan, South Korea and Japan — this system can be thought-about a hit. 

“The win-win is really all over the place,” the governor mentioned, sporting a conventional flower head lei. “We can vaccinate the U.S. expats. Those people will be protected. And in the meantime, they’re having a nice time in Guam. We are benefiting from their economic input as a result of that.”

Home to two U.S. navy bases, the 200 square-mile Micronesian island depends on tourism for one-third of its jobs. With 60% of its 170,098 residents already inoculated, and on monitor to attain herd immunity by July, the island is banking on vaccine tourism, together with vaccinated vacationers, to jumpstart its financial rebound. Tentative plans name for restarting flights from South Korea, each for the already inoculated, in addition to vacationers on vaccine trip packages, later this summer time. Unlike American residents, non-American guests can be required to pay for his or her vaccinations.

Until the pandemic hit, Guam was seeing a gentle uptick in arrivals, peaking at 1.6 million in 2019. Tourism revenues reached $1.4 billion.

Arriving at A.B. Won Pat International Airport in Guam, a 3.5-hour flight from Tokyo’s Narita Airport, a CBS News crew was transported to a Tumon Bay lodge that had been transformed right into a authorities quarantine facility staffed by the National Guard. The price of rooms and meals for vacationers being housed within the facility is backed by federal pandemic funds. At the time of CBS News’ go to, Guam required per week in quarantine earlier than permitting expats to go away and get vaccinated. But deliberate tour packages name for offering pictures to guests whereas in quarantine, as quickly because the day after arrival. 

“I think it’s great Guam’s doing this,” bioethicist Kerry Bowman of the University of Toronto informed CBS News. “If Guam can do things to revive their economy as well as get people vaccinated, I don’t see a problem with that. If people can’t pay their rent and have no source of income, this is not just people chasing money. This is people’s lives.”

But whereas vaccinating American residents on U.S. soil is one factor, utilizing vaccines to entice overseas vacationers is ethically doubtful, mentioned world well being skilled and Binghamton University professor Nicole Hassoun. 

“There’s people who really, really need that vaccine who aren’t getting it. And that’s where the vaccine should go,” she mentioned. “And it shouldn’t be prioritizing people just because they’re wealthy enough to come to the United States or because we need our tourism industry to come back online. I think that’s that’s shortsighted.”

The World Health Organization has mentioned the “scandalous inequity” of vaccine distribution, concentrated primarily in just a few wealthy nations, not solely prolongs the pandemic, however threatens even well-vaccinated nations with the chance of latest, drug-resistant strains.