Famed summer holiday season in Europe is in full swing. But efforts to inoculate people against the coronavirus are not taking a break.
Instead, with lockdowns easing despite concerns about variants and nations looking to breathe new life into their ailing tourism industries, vaccinations are going to vacationers. It’s all part of an effort to maintain momentum in campaigns to protect against the pandemic.
From France’s sun-kissed Mediterranean coast to the azure waters of Italy’s Adriatic beaches and Russian Black Sea resorts, health authorities are trying to make a COVID-19 shot as much part of this summer as sunscreen and shades for those who are not yet fully vaccinated.
The new drive to take shots to tourists is a way of adapting to annual summer migration in Europe; when it seems whole cities empty of their residents for weeks. Those long absences from home pose a particular challenge for many nations.
A vaccine party
In Britain, where 70% of adults already are fully vaccinated, campaigns now are aimed at the younger generations; with walk-in pop-up clinics in parks. A recent event complete with DJ at the Tate Modern. And shots on offer to music lovers at the Latitude Festival.
Mickael Bomard, from Le Plessis-Robinson in the Paris region, recently took his 15-year-old son Nolan to a squat building just meters from the gently lapping waves of the Mediterranean at Carry-le-Rouet, a popular holiday spot near the port city of Marseille.
“Given the measures now and the obligations when school starts in September, we decided to get him vaccinated,” Bomard says.
The vaccination center is giving shots to about 200 people each day; vacationers and locals — says Agnes Gatto, a nurse who runs the facility.
In France, where resistance to the vaccine is particularly stubborn, a new rule came into effect last week. It forces those who want to visit public sites ranging from cinemas to casinos to the Eiffel Tower to get a pass that shows they are either fully vaccinated, have tested negative for the coronavirus or recovered from COVID-19. The measure will include restaurants and cafes from next month. That’s part of the reason more people are leaving the sand for a shot in the arm.
57% of EU adults got the shot
It was enough to push Bomard to take Nolan. “Not being able to go out for dinner with the family, go to restaurants, and maybe having to find at the last minute an appointment in a packed vaccination center in September in order for him to go to middle school.”
After a slow start to vaccinations, 57% of adults in the EU are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Even so, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is warning against complacency given the well-established presence in Europe of the highly contagious delta variant.
She recently said that the “variant is very dangerous. I therefore call on everyone — who has the opportunity — to be vaccinated. For their own health and to protect others.”
To that end, flexible vaccination initiatives are cropping up across Europe.
Vaccination van in Italy
In Italy, a vaccination van will start circulating in the popular Adriatic Sea destination Rimini this weekend. It is following a similar mobile campaign at Lazio’s beaches, where many Romans have second homes. At Rome’s main airport authorities have a “Vax&Go” area where any traveler passing through can get a vaccine just before departure.
Ilaria Iannuzzi, a doctor there says that its main goal is to bring vaccination closer to people. Especially by facilitating those who need it, those who couldn’t book it or couldn’t respect their appointment.”
Still, some have complained of difficulties of getting vaccine shots outside of their home regions. Milan residents on vacation along the Ligurian coast have not been able to get a second shot. This is according to Corriere della Sera. But Liguria’s regional governor, Giovanni Toti, says the bureaucratic bug responsible could be ironed out in days.
Spa in Sochi? Get the vaccine
Elsewhere in Europe, in Russia, which is struggling with widespread vaccine skepticism, the popular southern vacation destination of Krasnodar, a region home to the renowned Black Sea resort of Sochi, is trying to persuade the hesitant. Starting August 1, it will only let visitors into hotels and spas if they have a negative coronavirus test or a vaccination certificate. Tourists with a negative test have to get a vaccine locally within three days of arrival.
“We will provide the vaccine,” Krasnodar Gov. Veniamin Kondratyev said.
In France, the pandemic pass appears to be having the desired effect of pushing some people skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines to get the shot anyway.
“I wasn’t really in favor of the vaccine because I’m young. I haven’t settled yet, I have no children, etc. so I’m a bit afraid of the long-term side effects,” says 24-year-old Carry-le-Rouet resident Noemie Cienzo. “But now, with the PCR tests we have to do every time we want to go out, I think I will (get vaccinated) otherwise it will become complicated. ”