US drug maker Pfizer has said that it is not working with any other partner at this time or authorised any agency to conduct or facilitate Covid-19 vaccination. The statement came on Tuesday after Gem Tours and Travels, a Mumbai-based tour operator, announced ‘vaccine tourism’ packages for its customers, promising to facilitate Pfizer vaccine shots in the US.
"Once approved, Pfizer will supply this vaccine during this pandemic phase only to governments across the world based on agreements with respective government authorities and following regulatory authorisation or approval. Vaccine administration to appropriate populations within a country is a decision for local governments based on relevant health authority guidance," a Pfizer spokesperson said.
The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer along with German firm BioNTech has shown a 95 per cent efficacy against the virus in test results.
Since the Pfizer vaccine requires very low temperatures (-70 degrees Celsius) and is unlikely to be introduced in India, Gem Tours and Travels sensed an opportunity to promote vaccine tourism. In two messages circulated among travel agents, Gem Tours and Travels announced 4 day/3 night packages, including airfare, hotel stay and Covid-19 vaccine shot in the US. The tour operator also said it was not procuring or holding any vaccines while soliciting customer registrations. "Everything we will arrange will be within laws of the US and will be done according to official permission of health department there," it said.
Sources within the travel industry said the vaccine tourism package could be a ploy to widen customer base. By gathering customer data, the tour operator could push other domestic and international packages to them, one travel agent said.
The tour operator's founder-chairman Jyotin Doshi defended the move stating the company was over three decades old and did not have to resort to such publicity stunts for business.