The World Travel and Tourism Council says approved vaccine inconsistency could delay the restart of international travel as tourists are blocked at borders for not having the “right” jab. Jenny Southan reports
Last year, we were all pinning our hopes on a vaccine that would protect us from Covid-19 and allow us to start travelling freely again. Now, inspite of a number of successful vaccines being administered to populations globally, a sense of snobbery has risen up against jabs that don’t meet certain standards from the point of view of other countries.
An example of this is the Covishield batch of AstraZeneca vaccines that were made in India, which are not recognised by the EU vaccine passport scheme.
It was reported by The Independent that up to five million doses of the India-made vaccine have been administered in the UK, although for a period, Malta for example said it wouldn’t allow people who had received this jab to benefit from the EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel. Italy and Croatia continue not to accept it.
In response, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) says that the restart of international travel could be seriously delayed without worldwide reciprocal recognition of all approved Covid-19 vaccines.
The global tourism body, which represents the global private travel and tourism sector, has issued its warning following concerns tourists face being turned away at borders because countries don’t have a common list of internationally recognised and approved Covid-19 vaccines.
This comes after a number of British holidaymakers, who had been given the Indian Covishield batch of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, were denied entry into Malta despite the drug being chemically identical to the UK-made version.
Over the past few weeks, reports of holidaymakers facing obstacles to entry have been increasing, with some even being prevented from boarding flights.
Virginia Messina, WTTC senior vice-president, says: “Reciprocal recognition of all vaccine types and batches is essential if we are to avoid any further unnecessary and damaging delay to restarting international travel.
“The failure of countries to agree on a common list of all approved and recognised vaccines is of huge concern to WTTC. We know every day travel is curbed, more cash-strapped travel and tourism businesses face even greater strain, pushing them ever more to the brink of bankruptcy.
“We can avoid this by having a fully recognised list of all the approved vaccines – and vaccine batches – which should be the key to unlocking international travel, not the door to preventing it.
“It will also give holidaymakers and travellers the confidence they need to book trips, flights and cruises, confident in the knowledge that their fully-vaccinated status will be internationally recognised.”
The WTTC believes that once again, the lack of international co-ordination to agree on a list of approved vaccines, is creating yet another major stumbling block for the restart of international travel.
This comes despite most vaccines have secured the approval of the World Health Organisation (WHO) or Stringent Regulatory Authorities (SRAs), such as the UK’s the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Food and Drug Administration in the US, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Reports of travellers being turned away because they have the “wrong” vaccine batches or “unrecognised” vaccines have created concern for consumers, deterring them from booking.