Preference is given to those with connections to the ruling elite. Vaccine tourists generally fly to the UAE in private jets.

For the wealthy, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become a hot destination for the Covid-19 vaccination. 

The country's vaccination policy gives first preference to powerful royalty members, politicians, oligarchs and the people with access to the power corridors of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other cities. 

Many non-residents whose friends hold high positions in the UAE were also inoculated with the coronavirus vaccine.

British financier Ben Goldsmith, and executives at SoftBank, are among the privileged visitors who received swift inoculation against Covid-19.

Ben Goldsmith, an advisor to the UK government and son of Sir James Goldsmith, said he went to the UAE days before the UK government enforced strict coronavirus restrictions in December.

On the invitation of a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, Goldsmith and his wife were inoculated with the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.

“It was never our intention to get vaccinated, but when the opportunity presented itself, we gratefully took it,” Goldsmith told the Financial Times

“The UAE is vaccinating anyone who asks for it — we just happened to be in the right place at the right time”. 

The oil-rich Gulf country has one of the fastest vaccination campaigns in the world as it has administered more than six million doses of its 10 million population.

The UAE has been carrying out the second-most successful vaccination program in the world after Israel, according to the Our World in Data project run by Oxford University.

Only residents are routinely eligible for the jabs in the UAE, the country has already been carrying out phase three trials for the Chinese Sinopharm and intends to produce it.

The Emirates is expected to establish a formal vaccine tourism sector in the near future, however, just well-connected visitors will be able to access it.

Three people familiar with the issue, told the Financial Times that only royals and senior officials can secure exemptions for non-residents, called locally as “vaccine wasta,” meaning the use of influence to be vaccinated.

Furthermore, several executives of SoftBank, a Japanese Multinational conglomerate company, decamped from London to the oil-rich Emirates in January, according to two people who were familiar with the trip’s details.

CEO of the Softbank Vision Fund, Rajeev Misra, received a shot during his visit to the UAE. SoftBank declined to comment on it. 

SoftBank’s Vision Fund has been playing an important role in the financial centre of Abu Dhab, as well as Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund.

Italian energy company Eni said the UAE offered free BioNTech/Pfizer vaccinations to its senior officials “for business purposes.”

“It’s much safer just to get them vaccinated,” an official in Abu Dhabi, who has helped visitors to be vaccinated, said. “It’s tough to get it done, takes a few days.”  

Generally, vaccine tourists fly to the UAE by private jets and stay at luxury hotels on Dubai beach, such as the Four Seasons Jumeirah, the Mandarin Oriental and the Bulgari resort, according to a source who made such a trip.

“People with connections came here and got vaccines that were provided on a ‘friends and family’ basis,” a source said.

“Sheikhs have [access to] their own stashes — it’s all around the majlis for jabs,” he added.

Last week, the Spanish sisters of King Felipe VI found themselves at the centre of a political storm after it was confirmed that they had received Covid-19 vaccines in Abu Dhabi.

Infanta Elena and Infanta Cristina got the shot when they traveled to visit their father, King Emeritus Juan Carlos I last month.

The former king has been living in Abu Dhabi since he left Spain in shame amid mounting allegations of corruption and financial misconduct.

Elena explained that "both my sister and I went to visit our father with the intention of getting a health passport that would allow us to visit on a regular basis. The vaccine was offered to us and we accepted it."

Spain's monarchy also released a statement on Wednesday, insisting that the immediate royal family -- Spain's King Felipe, Queen Letizia and their daughters -- would await their turn to be vaccinated in Spain.

Neither of the King’s sisters would have qualified for a Covid-19 jab in Spain.

Source: TRT World