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

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Valley woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

First in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Comox woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Most categories of crime held steady from year to year in Cumberland. File photo
Cumberland crime numbers hold steady year to year

A few categories had notable changes but many were similar to 2019

The colourful Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly has been reintroduced on Hornby Island, BC. Photo courtesy the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project.
Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project releases more caterpillars on Hornby Island

Chris Junck Special to Black Press The number of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies… Continue reading

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

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

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

Thw male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

Valen a student of Coldstream Elementary writes advice for adults amid a pandemic.
‘We can get rid of COVID together’: B.C. kids share heartwarming advice

Elementary students share their wisdom to adults in unprecedented times

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. health minister says delay in Moderna vaccine ‘disappointing’

‘The sooner we get vaccines in people’s arms the better, and inconsistency in delivery is a consistent problem. This is simply a reality and not an issue of blame,’ Adrian Dix said Friday

(Police handout/Kamloops RCMP)
B.C. man dies in custody awaiting trial for Valentine’s Day robbery, kidnapping spree

Robert James Rennie, who was on the Kamloops RCMP’s most wanted list, passed away at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Coquitlam

Most Read