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

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

It costs as little as $7 to charge an EV at home. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Electric Vehicles a rare sight (in the Kootenays), but change on the way

Electric pickups will increase the appeal of zero-emission vehicles in years to come according to Blair Qualey of the New Car Dealers Association

Linda Krawczyk and her dad Doug Finney enjoyed a ride around beautiful Fernie on Friday thanks to Melanie Wrigglesworth and the local chapter of Cycling Without Age. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Cycling Without Age goes for its first spin

Doug Finney (86) got to enjoy a ride around Fernie

The Cranbrook Community Forest is good to go for mountain biking. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Snow’s done, time to hit the trails

South Country trails are good to go

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read