Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Some regions have also clamped down on vaccine tourism, not wanting to be associated with the practice

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue.

Their comments came after the head of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Mark Machin, stepped down after admitting to travelling to Dubai to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The reputational damage — the lasting scar of you being caught, outed and tarred and feathered in the public square over your decision to engage in vaccine tourism — will linger,” said Wojtek Dabrowski, managing partner of Provident Communications.

He said it will likely be some time until Machin, once a highly respected money manager, lands a new gig, as most companies will be loath to have their names associated with his.

“You have to think about what kind of organization would take on a leader with this in their background,” Dabrowski said.

Decisions to travel abroad for COVID-19 vaccines also raise questions about the culture a person expects to cultivate in their company, he added.

“As the CEO, the buck stops with you every time,” Dabrowski said. “Whether that’s on business performance, whether that’s on culture, or whether that’s on modelling the behaviour that you want to see elsewhere in the organization.”

In this case, he said, the Canada Pension Plan itself is likely to come out unscathed, in part because Machin left his post so quickly.

But if the company is not so well-known or highly regarded to begin with, and doesn’t act swiftly to rectify the situation, the executive’s actions could have broader implications, he said.

Some regions have also clamped down on vaccine tourism, not wanting to be associated with the practice.

In January, the Florida government changed its vaccination rules to prevent non-residents from flying in, getting jabbed and flying back out. The state now requires would-be vaccine recipients to provide proof of at least part-time residency.

And while Dabrowski noted that executivrs may find it desirable — though unadvisable — to combine vaccination with a vacation, that’s not always how things play out.

In late January, the head of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. and his wife were ticketed after allegedly flying to a remote Yukon community to get vaccinated.

Dabrowski said the consequences of travelling to hop the vaccine line are perhaps even greater now, in a time when many people believe corporations should consider more than just profits.

“This whole idea that a corporation has this broader social imperative that’s not just focused around making money, but rather, improving and bettering and serving the communities in which these companies operate, is emerging as a very pressing imperative for a lot of organizations,” he said.

And there’s little question about whether vaccine tourism betters the community, he added.

Bioethicist Kerry Bowman said he was shocked to learn that a prominent figure would travel abroad to get a COVID-19 vaccine, especially after the furor that erupted in late December and early January over jet-setting politicians defying public health advice to avoid international travel.

“You’re really jumping the vaccine queue,” he said. “We’ve got elderly people in this country, and particularly the province of Ontario, that have still not even received a preliminary dose.”

Vaccine tourism also erodes trust in a health-care system that should ideally, treat everybody equally, Bowman said.

“It feeds into what a lot of people already know: That people with privileges and connections are going to find a way through the system.”

The phenomenon differs, Bowman said, from other forms of medical tourism in which people cross the border to pay for quicker access to treatment.

“If you’re going abroad for surgery, the secondary effect on other people from a point of view of justice is very different,” he said, noting that the pandemic makes everything more complicated.

“If a person is coming back from overseas, even if they’ve been vaccinated, the vaccine is really not coming up to strength for a few weeks,” he said. “So you’ve also got a potential health risk that’s being introduced.”

Bowman said the costs of vaccine tourism far outweigh any benefits.

“Critics will say vaccine tourism is just taking pressure off the system, and it’s no big deal,” Bowman said. “But, you know, fairness is very, very important.”

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Colwood mayor Rob Martin celebrates the opening of Meadow Park Green playground in Royal Bay earlier this year.	This year’s taxes reflect an increase in maintenance costs for parks, trails, and sewers. (Photo contributed/Jennifer Callioux)
Colwood pitches $100 property tax hike

Parks, trails, and sewer maintenance on the rise

Supporter Gordy Dodd cheers on HeroWork Victoria executive director Trevor Botkin, who will be in a lift for 36 hours beside Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress on April 16 and 17 to raise funds for the organization’s next project, a makeover of the Salvation Army’s Addiction and Rehabilitation Centre on Johnson Street. (Courtesy HeroWork Victoria)
HeroWork Victoria tackles makeover of Salvation Army rehab centre

Executive director to spend 36 hours living in a lift as fundraiser

Naloxone is used to treat opioid overdoses. (Black Press Media files)
Island Health issues overdose advisory for Greater Victoria

The advisory directs bystanders to an overdose to call 911 and administer naloxone

Grandmothers to Grandmothers is a campaign that connects Canadian grandmothers with grandmothers in Africa who are caring for children orphaned by AIDS. Here, they are in Kakuto, Uganda in 2018. (Kibuuka Mukisa Oscar photo)
Greater Victoria and African grandmothers celebrate solidarity with virtual concert

Grandmothers to Grandmothers supports women in Africa caring for children orphaned by AIDS

West Shore RCMP is seeking information about a collision involving a car and a bicycle on Six Mile Road, near the Island Highway, at 11:30 a.m. on April 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore RCMP seeks information about collision between bike, car

Collision occured on Six Mile Road on April 7 and a bystander got the blue car’s plate number

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Organ donation form from BC Transplant. (BC Transplant)
POLL: Have you registered as an organ donor?

They number 1.5 million strong and growing. But their numbers still fall… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 6

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees on highway near Ladysmith

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island’s Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Most Read