TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS.- They travel hundreds of kilometers by plane to USA with a single purpose: to apply the covid-19 vaccine.

Most go to the inoculation point on their own, but some go directly from the airport to the facility.

Public officials, businessmen, television presenters, soccer players, pastors, personalities and ordinary people have had to go out to achieve immunity from the vaccine shortage that Honduras suffers.

Javier Zúniga, 41, and his wife, Alejandra Rodriguez, 34, traveled separately at different times from San Pedro Sula to Orlando, Florida; and Maryland, respectively, and then visited the vaccination centers.

READ: Hondurans plan to go in caravans to El Salvador to get vaccinated

Rodriguez was given the pfizer vaccine, while Zúniga is Johnson & Johnson, so they had to cover more than 2,000 kilometers, each, in the three trips.

The couple, from Tegucigalpa, followed the recommendation of their doctor: “It is better to spend to get vaccinated, than to spend when you are sick with coronavirus.”

The one who got immunized first was Rodríguez. He traveled twice to receive his anticovid vaccines, but Zúniga only had to go to the United States once to be inoculated because the vaccine that was applied is only one dose.

“I have no confidence in the vaccines that the Honduran government bought and, furthermore, we had to wait a long time for them to vaccinate us here. My wife has respiratory problems and I couldn’t wait, ”Rodríguez’s husband told THE HERALD.

“What we did (go to the United States to get vaccinated) is a way of maintaining our lives in the absence of opportunities in Honduras,” he added.

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With a population of almost 9.5 million people, Honduras is one of the nations that least covid-1 vaccines9 has applied in the world. To date, according to the most recent report, 2.8% of people eligible to vaccinate (5.7 million) had been inoculated.

People who can afford the trip go to the United States so they don’t have to wait, but they must have enough money to pay for tests, airfare, hotels, car rentals, and other expenses.

“We spent, between the two of us, almost 70,000 lempiras. We prefer to pay that than pay for drugs and hospitalization for coronavirus, ”said Zúniga.

In order to Angel Hernandez, Televicentro sports commentator, the decision to get vaccinated in the United States was the product of the inoculation process that is progressing late in the country.

“There was no certainty as to when more vaccines could arrive in Honduras so that I could be vaccinated,” he told THE HERALD while traveling to the North American nation to apply the second dose.

“I did it also for the protection of my parents, who are elderly,” he added.

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Travelers increased

Between the end of last April and the beginning of May, the air terminals were crowded with people, an unusual fact, since it is common for it to happen at bus points, as it happens on the Easter holiday.

And, in that sense, figures from the National Migration Institute from January 2020 to April 2021, held by the EL HERALDO Data Unit, show that the United States was the main destination for travelers leaving Honduras, with more than 174,000 registrations.

“Yes, the departure of people by air has grown. For example, the numbers have increased considerably ”, he pointed out. Ricardo Cabrera, owner manager of Vacations and Business Travel Agency, who mentioned that there are clients who ask them to take them to the vaccination points.

“That is a separate service, but if the client uses it, it is done,” he said.

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So far this year alone, nearly 73,000 people have traveled to the United States, a high number, experts say, in contrast to inoculation in the United States.

April 2021 has been the month with the largest number of travelers to the United States – in the absence of May data -, with 25,722 departures, above March, with 20,691.

Cabrera also said that the air exodus is a sign that people are looking for alternatives to avoid contagion of covid-19.

“They are methods, they are forms that each person seeks,” he said, who also plans to visit the United States to do vaccine tourism.

But because he has not yet started immunization for those over 12 years old, Cabrera he has postponed his trip.

“I have to wait for them to start vaccinating the children to go with my wife and children. Thank God we have the opportunity ”, he pointed out.

SEE: IHSS receives 36 thousand remaining doses of AstraZeneca and vaccination begins on May 25

‘Decisions must be made’

The epidemiologist Francisco Ramos He considered that given the precariousness of the Honduran health system, the population that can, in its nature of survival, has made decisions.

“You can’t blame them, it’s normal. I wish everyone had the same privilege to enjoy vaccination against the coronavirus, “he said.

The presidential Salvador NasrallaMeanwhile, he said that he will seek to get vaccinated elsewhere because he mistrusts the government.

“I am not going to get vaccinated here, I will do it elsewhere. I think what they inject is serum; I’m afraid. I cannot trust the vaccines that Juan Orlando Hernández bought ”, he argued.

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Can the visa be lost?

Personalities post messages about their trips on social networks, generating condemnations from many people who accuse them of showing off their privileges.

Soon after, Florida authorities began to ask for proof of residency from those who were going to be vaccinated in the great North American nation.

But about half of the states in the United States, including Texas, Arizona and California – where there are strong Latino communities – do not have that requirement and accept any form of identification that has a photo.

Many of the people who travel to get vaccinated have friends or relatives who live in the United States and can help them make appointments or get anticovid vaccines leftovers.

READ: Hundreds of elderly people would have been saved with anticovid vaccines in time

Some have houses in the United States and others use addresses of acquaintances. It is common to hear these travelers say that they understand that many Americans do not plan to get vaccinated.

Hassibe, an agronomist from Comayagua, said she decided to get vaccinated in the United States after her mother died from covid-19 one month ago.

She signed up online at a Texas pharmacy using the address of a friend who lives there.

Last weekend he flew to Houston and drove to Pasadena, Texas on Monday to receive the second Moderna vaccine.

He asked that his full name not be published for fear of reprisals after hearing reports that those who traveled to the United States to get vaccinated could lose their visas.

Hassibe She said she was relieved after receiving the second vaccine and that she thought about her mother.

ALSO: Several departments in Honduras urge more anticovid vaccines

“What would have happened if my mother had this opportunity to come to the United States to get vaccinated?” He wondered.

She knows there is a lot of criticism of people like her who take advantage of US taxpayers by inoculating there, but she said she tries to protect herself and her family.

“The same pharmacies tell you ‘it doesn’t matter that you don’t have papers, get vaccinated’, because they are doing a common good to society,” he said. At the moment, none of the testimonies collected by THE HERALD they realize that their visa has been canceled.

Even seeking medical treatment is an activity allowed as part of the B-2 tourism visa, as detailed on its official website by the United States Department of State in the visa section.

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The consular officer may ask some people for additional information or documents on clinical diagnoses from local doctors or in the United States about the person’s condition to analyze the case in detail, but what all experts recommend is not to lie.

“As a tourist, this person would not have any problem with his visa, but if he lies when entering and lies in an appointment he makes in a pharmacy and says that he is a resident and provides documents, there he would have problems tomorrow to renew his visa” the immigration attorney explained, Carlos Olarte.

Rich countries hoarded much of the vaccines, including the United States, which has been criticized for not doing more to help poor nations.

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