As of Monday 11th January, vaccine efforts around the world are ramping up, with the likes of Israel leading the way, having now vaccinated more than 1.5 million members of its population. Elsewhere, the European Union has secured enough doses to vaccinate more than 80 per cent of the European population, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Among the leading vaccines worldwide are the Pfizer/BioNTech, the Moderna, and the Sputnik V vaccine. The latter has just expanded its reach to Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia and Serbia, and has been heralded for its affordability, costing less than US$10 per shot.
But as we begin to see vaccine distribution more smoothly administered (although there is still much debate over the worldwide equitable distribution of these, especially to some of the poorer nations), many in the travel industry may be wondering whether Covid-19 vaccinations, like other virus inoculations, could soon become a mandatory requirement for travel to certain destinations.
Israel announces its ‘green passport’
We are looking very closely into the use of technology in this Covid-19 response
Indeed, Israel, following successful vaccination efforts, has now announced a ‘green passport’ scheme, demonstrating that an individual has immunity due to having received [both doses of] the Covid-19 vaccine. And Australian airline Qantas has announced that it will start requiring coronavirus shots for all passengers on its international flights – Qantas CEO Alan Joyce called the vaccine a ‘necessity’ once they become widely available.
For most airlines and governments around the world, however, a negative Covid-19 test is currently the main requirement for any prospective travellers. But this could soon change, especially with the soon-to-be-launched International Air Travel Associations’ Travel Pass, as well as other health passports in the works.
WHO works on vaccination certificates
In addition, back in December, it was reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) was in the early stages of exploring ‘e-vaccination certificates’ to help facilitate global travel. “We are looking very closely into the use of technology in this Covid-19 response, and one of them is, how can we work with member states towards something called e-vaccination certificates?” WHO Europe’s Programme Manager Dr Siddartha Datta said to a press briefing at the time.
Still too many vaccination barriers to overcome
A big barrier, however, is that durability of the various Covid-19 vaccines are still in question; as most have been approved for emergency use authorisation, none have had lengthy trials or tests, and as vaccine distribution is lagging [and often not yet underway] in many countries around the world, reopening worldwide travel will be no easy feat. What’s more, many people remain divided on whether to get vaccinated for the coronavirus.
For now, hygiene and sanitisation will be key. And, as Emanuele Capobianco, Director of Health for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told the public in early January: “We are very concerned about this convergence of a potential false sense of security due to the rollout of vaccines, the emergence of new variants, and the impact of holiday-season travel. Our first line of defence against the virus remains our individual behaviour. Beyond this, the ability of governments to take swift actions based on scientific evidence is also key to slowing down the pandemic.
“Vaccines will help, but unless we all remain vigilant, and unless their deployment is accelerated across the world in a fair and equitable manner, the entire world remains at risk.”