WHO says vaccine passports should NOT be used for foreign travel as there are ‘critical unknowns’ around how jabs protect people
- Proof of a jab should not be required because there remain ‘critical unknowns’
- The WHO added that inoculated passengers should not sidestep existing curbs
- It is a fresh blow for both holidaymakers and tourism bosses desperate for travel
Summer holidays hang in the balance after the World Health Organisation urged against using vaccine passports to facilitate international travel.
It said proof of a jab should not be required because there remain ‘critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission’.
The WHO added that inoculated passengers should not be able to sidestep existing travel restrictions designed to reduce Covid.
And it also warned that scarce doses could be diverted away from vulnerable people if they suddenly become of value to travellers.
Setting out the WHO stance, the interim position paper states: ‘At the present time, it is WHO’s position that national authorities and conveyance operators should not introduce requirements of proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international travel as a condition for departure or entry.’
Summer holidays hang in the balance as the World Health Organisation urges against using vaccine passports to facilitate international travel. Pictured: Skiathos old port in Greece
It is a fresh blow for both holidaymakers and tourism bosses hoping vaccine passports will pave the way for overseas trips.
That people should be mandated to have a vaccine to enjoy greater freedom is a politically divisive issue being fought out in national capitals.
The WHO’s paper also says: ‘National authorities should choose public health interventions that least infringe on individual freedom of movement.’
In the UK, Boris Johnson will receive an efficacy assessment by the Department for Transport before making a decision.
European Union leaders are today expected to thrash out a system of vaccine passports.
Southern EU countries that depend heavily on tourism are desperate to rescue this summer’s holiday season.
Some governments, like Greece and Spain, are pushing for a quick adoption of an EU-wide certificate for those already inoculated so that people can travel again.
But while EU members agree a vaccination certificate would be welcome, work is needed on the details, including whether it should be in digital form, be accepted globally and at what stage of the two-step inoculation process it should be issued.
A woman receives the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid19 vaccine at an NHS vaccination centre in Ealing, west London
‘We call for work to continue on a common approach to vaccination certificates,’ a draft statement of the leaders video-conference seen by Reuters said, without setting a time-frame for a result.
Officials said the EU was working with the International Air Transport Association, which is keen to revive air travel, and with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the WHO.
But travel with certificates also raised legal questions, officials said, because those last in line for vaccinations could argue their freedom of movement was unjustly restricted by the often months-long queues.
EU officials also point out there is no guidance yet from the WHO and EU agencies whether people who have received two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine can still carry the coronavirus and infect others, even if no longer vulnerable themselves.
It was also not clear if people could be infectious having already fought off the coronavirus themselves, for how long they remained immune and if they too should get certificates.
‘There are still many things we don’t know,’ a senior official from one of the EU countries said. ‘We need more time to come to a common line.’
But time is short for countries in the south, where the hospitality sector needs to know what it should prepare for in the coming months. Despite the official stance that all EU governments want to solve the issue together, some might decide to move faster individually.
Earlier in February, Greece and Israel signed a deal to ease travel restrictions to Greece for Israelis with proof of COVID-19 vaccination.