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San Francisco sees rush of vaccine tourism

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 11:35 AM CDT
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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – The San Francisco Bay Area is enjoying a new international tourism boom, but it’s not because of Fisherman’s Warf or the Golden Gate Bridge.

Instead, people are flying into the airport from all over the world to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s hard to get a vaccine in the Philippines, so it’s easier to just come here and you are hitting two birds at a time,” said traveler Roqzanne Tan.

She couldn’t get vaccinated in her home country, so she traveled over 15 hours to land in the U.S. and walked into a CVS to get vaccinated.

Another popular option is the vaccine clinic at San Francisco International Airport, where tourists are getting the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Monday through Friday.

According to airport spokesman Doug Yakel, “80% of the new appointments are actually non-U.S. citizens.”

Since May, the airport has given over 1,000 vaccines to tourists from 58 countries. They say most of the people are coming from Taiwan and Mexico.

“Because in Mexico there is no plan,” said Israel Gomez. “In Mexico, they are very slow.”

As the delta variant spreads across the globe, the San Francisco airport has turned into an unexpected vaccination hot spot.

“It allows these Johnson & Johnson doses to go to good use,” said Yakel. “It allows them to not go to waste.”

Travel agent Edward Siu has gotten multiple calls inquiring about the vaccine. He said the travel price tag is high but worth it as COVID cases are spiking in many countries.

“It may cost them only about $4,000 to $5,000, that is the most,” he said.

The San Francisco airport hopes free, accessible vaccines will help boost the local economy, but Siu said one dose is not enough time to help much.

“Only the hotel maybe takes some advantage on it, the airline maybe takes some advantage on it,” he said. “People are not taking the tours because they just want to take the vaccine and then they go.”

Still, the word is spreading fast.

“My friend went here with me to get a vaccine as well, but she went back to the Philippines,” Tan said.

The international vaccine rush comes as the pandemic in the U.S. reaches another peak.

According to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, the country is averaging more than 100,000 new COVID cases every day, the highest number in almost six months.

Copyright 2021 KGO via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.