The tiny European nation where tourists can pay to get a COVID vaccine

·3-min read
San Marino is offering the vaccine for 50 Euros. (Reuters)
San Marino is offering the vaccine for 50 euros. (Reuters)

The tiny micro-state of San Marino has started luring tourists to visit by offering the Russian Sputnik V COVID vaccine to paying guests who have found it "difficult" to get a jab in their home countries. 

Europe's third smallest state after Vatican City and Monaco started the scheme last month and has so far offered just over 250 jabs to people.

The scheme is helping San Marino's tourism sector emerge from a COVID slump, but is not available to residents in Italy, which surrounds the micro-state on all sides.

Russian citizen living in the Czech Republic, Igor Pershin, receives the first dose of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in San Marino. (Reuters)
Russian citizen living in the Czech Republic, Igor Pershin, receives the first dose of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in San Marino. (Reuters)

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Igor Pershin, a Russian who lives in the Czech Republic, travelled to San Marino with his wife and stayed at the IDesign Hotel after hearing about the scheme on Russian TV.

"In the Czech Republic, it is difficult to get vaccinated, especially for foreigners," Pershin said. "I only wanted to get the Sputnik vaccine and I only wanted to get it in San Marino so I booked a hotel."

San Marino is not a EU member and Sputnik V has not yet been approved for use in the bloc. The vaccine is under review by the EU regulator, the European Medicines Agency.

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Apart from hotel costs, the price for two doses of the vaccine is about 50 euro.

"We came here from Germany because we want to get vaccinated with Sputnik V and because in Germany they haven't given us an appointment yet," said Gioele Cozzolino.

Hotels handle the paperwork after a tourist sends an email. The visitors typically stay three days for both first and second jabs.

The tiny country is hoping to attract tourists by offering vaccines. (Reuters)
The tiny country is hoping to attract tourists by offering vaccines. (Reuters)

"The guest arrives, stays here for three days, the day after his arrival we accompany him to receive the first dose, and then he comes back after 21 days for the second dose," said Francesco Brigante, director of the IDesign Hotel.

The 24-square-mile enclave began using Sputnik in February and has so far vaccinated 25,000 of its population of 34,000.

The fact a rich country like San Marino has begun using their vaccines as a tool to attract tourists and boost their economy when many nations across the world are desperate to begin jabbing their populations will further the debate of global vaccine inequality.

People walk, as the Republic of San Marino starts a campaign inviting tourists to get vaccinated with the Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, June 1, 2021. Picture taken June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria
San Marino has started a campaign inviting tourists to get vaccinated with the Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine. (Reuters)

Several of the poorest nations around the world have barely vaccinated any of their population and the World Health Organization (WHO) has criticised the world's richest nations for securing the lion's share of the global supply.

Leaders from the G7 group of leading industrialised nations will then meet for a summit in Cornwall next week and are expected to discuss the issue.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in April that while one in four people in rich countries had received a vaccine, only one in 500 people in poorer countries had gotten a dose.

He has previously called the vaccine inequality between rich and poor a "moral outrage" and "grotesque".

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