COVID-19 Boosts Medical Tourism at the US-Mexico BorderBy Rodrigo Brugada | Wed, 04/21/2021 - 13:50
As Mexico awaits a potential third wave of contagion while it carries on with its vaccination plan, thousands of Mexican nationals have opted to go on vacation to the US in search of swift vaccination.
Currently, Mexico has vaccinated only 8.7 percent of its population, with only about 3 percent having received the necessary doses to be fully inoculated, according to Our World in Data. With millions still waiting for a second dose and many more pending to receive their first one, some of Mexico’s most privileged individuals have opted to skip the waiting list and go on a so-called vaccination vacation, as reported by NPR.
This phenomenon came to Mexico following a larger international trend, after some US states implemented policies aiming to vaccinate their entire population, regardless of residency or migratory status. Southern states, like Texas, have received a large stream of medical tourists, which in some cases has sparked protests from US nationals who demand to be vaccinated first. As reported by the LA Times, even public representatives have spoken against these policies, including Sen. Eddie Morales and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. WHO has also declared that while this option is available, it only widens the gap in health interventions and outcomes, which could lead to social injustice, as mentioned by WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
While it is true that these policies have accelerated vaccination thus reducing the spread of the virus, it is challenging to find a balance between a broad vaccination approach and ensuring that no one takes advantage of these regulations, as is discussed in a Slate article. Mexico’s approach to battling the pandemic may be at fault, given a combination of a slow vaccine rollout and a vaccination plan that has been deemed ineffective, as stated in the Washington Post. That being said, there have been outside pressures that have played a significant role in this slow rollout, such as the gatekeeping of intellectual property, the US’ plan to prioritize its own population over sharing vaccines and the so-called vaccine diplomacy between China, Russia and the US, as mentioned previously by MBN.
Every new person vaccinated brings the world a step closer to the end of the pandemic, but it remains to be seen how this medical tourism will affect Mexico and the world. On the one hand, vaccination is still not proven to be 100 percent effective against contagion. On the other, maintaining accurate databases of vaccinated individuals could prove a challenge at a federal level. There is also the issue of a newly found sense of protection that comes with the vaccine, which might invite people and governments to ease social-distancing and preventive practices.