Health passports, problem or solution?
Controversy is growing regarding restrictions based on the type of vaccine a passenger has received
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the production and approval of vaccines has been a frantic race against time and towards the end of 2020 when the results of the tests of various inoculants were publicly known, the end of the pandemic seemed To be closer. The tourism industry was even beginning to beat what would be a long-awaited recovery that today is tempered by restrictions that once again bring more setbacks.
While it is understandable that states take the determination to impose sanitary measures to contain new waves generated by variants such as the Delta, the implementation of sanitary passports based on the type of vaccine a passenger is applied does not seem to be the best decision.
Taking the declining demand for international tourism in markets that had been very important in the pre-Covid-19 era, this type of issue becomes decisive, even more so when not all inoculants have been approved by WHO and many others are in full swing. developing. Even the scientific studies that are being carried out to mix vaccines raises a new question regarding how a tourist could be considered with different formulas applied.
In this context, what appeared to be a solution today raises more doubts than certainties and the restart of international travel could be seriously delayed without global reciprocal recognition of all approved COVID-19 vaccines. So delicate is the situation that the World Travel and Tourism Council has issued its warning following concerns tourists face being turned away at borders because countries do not have a common list of internationally recognized and approved COVID-19 vaccines.
In recent weeks, reports of tourists facing obstacles to entering different countries have been on the rise, with some even being prevented from boarding their flights to destinations.
WTTC believes that, once again, the lack of international coordination to agree on a list of approved vaccines is creating another major obstacle to restarting international travel.
This occurs despite the fact that most vaccines have obtained approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) or Strict Regulatory Authorities (SRA), such as the UK Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). United States and the US Food and Drug Administration, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Reports that travelers are turned away because they have the 'wrong' vaccine batches or 'unrecognized' vaccines have fueled consumer concern, dissuading them from booking and thus hurting the already existing Travel & Tourism sector. in difficulties.
The request for reciprocal recognition for all vaccines and vaccine batches is part of the four new WTTC guidelines that aim to safely resume international mobility and save the millions of jobs and livelihoods that depend on this sector. , while the global economic recovery gets underway.
Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President of WTTC, said: "Mutual recognition of all vaccine types and batches is essential if we are to avoid further unnecessary and disruptive delays to restart international travel."
“The failure of countries to agree on a common list of all approved and recognized vaccines is a great concern for the WTTC, as we know that every day travel is reduced, more travel and tourism companies with problems liquidity companies face even greater stress, pushing more and more to the brink of bankruptcy."
"We can avoid this by having a fully recognized list of all approved vaccines - and vaccine batches - that should be the key to unlocking international travel, not the door to preventing it."
"It will also give tourists and travelers the confidence they need to book trips, flights and cruises, relying on the knowledge that their full vaccination status will be recognized internationally."
WTTC says that restoring safe international travel can be accomplished by following its four guidelines.
Through a combination of COVID-19 testing, vaccination, digital health travel passports and the use of health and safety protocols, such as the use of face masks, safe international mobility can be resumed and at the same time saved millions of jobs and livelihoods that depend on the sector and drive the global economic recovery.
Fundamental WTTC guidelines for restoring international mobility while protecting public health include:
- Appropriately reduced protocols for vaccinated travelers, including no testing or quarantine for those who are fully vaccinated. Worldwide recognition for international travel of all vaccines authorized for their use and considered safe and effective by the WHO or by the SRAs recognized by the WHO.
- A data-driven, risk-based and internationally harmonized approach to restoring freedom of movement that is consistent across countries, easy to communicate and clearly understood by travelers.
- Global adoption of 'digital health passes' that allow travelers to easily obtain and verify their vaccination status, negative COVID test result or natural immunity from a previous infection These must work with existing border control systems and operators of trips accepted by all countries. Digital verification of a traveler's COVID status before the trip will avoid long and unsafe lines at transportation hubs and terminals.
- Continuous implementation of high quality health and safety standards in all areas of the travel and tourism sector, including the continued adoption of the WTTC Safe Travel Protocols and Safe Travel Seal, with the continued use of face masks in areas busy and closed, as well as all forms of public transport.
WTTC advocates for the full implementation of these proportionate and responsible guidelines for travel in the coming months, as many travel restrictions begin to ease as major travel markets begin to reopen.
This occurs in the context of a successful vaccination rollout, with a subsequent decline in deaths, cases, and hospitalizations in many countries. However, the variants will continue to be a cause for concern as the world struggles to emerge from the effects of the pandemic.
Support for health passports
A new World Economic Forum / IPSOS survey found that three out of four people support COVID-19 vaccine certificates for travelers entering their country. Two out of three think these certificates would also be effective in making big events safe and hope they will be widely used.
Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Health and Medical Care at the World Economic Forum, said: “Most public opinion in high- and middle-income countries sees vaccination certificates as indispensable tools for resuming travel and reopening large public spaces. It will be necessary to adjust the outdated international health regulations".
78% agree that travelers entering their country must have a vaccination certificate; a majority agree in each of the 28 countries surveyed, from 92% in Malaysia and 90% in Peru to 52% in Hungary and 58% in Poland.
Support drops when it comes to accessing parts of daily life that have only recently been reopened. Only half of the vaccination certificates of agreement should be necessary for shops, restaurants and offices. The counties that show broad support for these types of measures are mainly in South Asia and Latin America.
Globally, 55% support these types of requirements, ranging from strong support in India (78% agree), Chile (75%) and Peru (70%) to widespread opposition in Russia (72% disagree ), Hungary (59%). , Poland (55%), the United States (52%) and Belgium (52%).
Ensuring that certificates do not create two classes of global citizens
"Three conditions must be met so that such certificates do not do more harm than good," said Bernaert. “First, the certificates should take advantage of the technologies that ensure the authentication of vaccine credentials. Second, privacy issues need to be addressed and only trusted checkers should provide access. Third, and above all, vaccine certificates must be available to everyone who wishes to use one, which means that universal access to vaccines in low-income countries must be pursued so as not to create two classes of world citizens".