Following reports of vacationers being refused entry into destinations because, while they were vaccinated, they had not received an approved vaccine for the country they were about to visit, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is warning that the restart of international travel could be seriously delayed without worldwide reciprocal recognition of all approved COVID-19 vaccines.
The global tourism body issued its warning following concerns tourists face being turned away at the borders because countries don’t have a common list internationally recognized and approved COVID-19 vaccines.
And he warning comes just days after a number of British holidaymakers, who had been administered the Indian Covishield batch of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, were rejected entry into Malta despite the drug being chemically identical to the UK-made vaccine.
In fact, over the past few weeks reports of holidaymakers facing obstacles to entry have been on the rise, with some even being prevented from boarding their flights to destinations.
The WTTC makes it clear that it believes that once again, the lack of international coordination to agree on a list of approved vaccines, is creating yet another major stumbling block for the restart of international travel.
And it comes despite that fact that 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 ‘unrecognized’ vaccines have fueled concern from consumers, deterring them from booking and thereby damaging the already struggling Travel & Tourism sector.
The plea for reciprocal recognition for all vaccines and vaccine batches forms part of WTTC’s four new guidelines which are aimed at safely resuming international mobility and save the millions of jobs and livelihoods which depend on this sector, while kick-starting the global economic recovery.
Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President WTTC, said: “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.”
Messina continued: “The failure of countries to agree on a common list of all approved and recognized vaccines is of huge concern to WTTC, as we know every day travel is curbed, more cash-strapped Travel & Tourism businesses face even greater strain, pushing ever more to the brink of bankruptcy.”
She said that: “We can avoid this by having a fully recognized list of all the approved vaccines – and vaccine batches – which should be the key to unlocking international travel, not the door to preventing it.”
And Messina pointed out: “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 recognized.”
Through a combination of COVID-19 testing, vaccination, digital health travel passes and the use of health and safety protocols, such as wearing face masks, safe international mobility can resume while at the same time saving millions of jobs and livelihoods which depend on the sector and kick-starting the global economic recovery.
WTTC’s guidelines to restore international mobility while safeguarding public health include:
- Appropriately reduced protocols for vaccinated travellers, including no need for testing or quarantine for those fully vaccinated. Global recognition for international travel of all vaccines authorised for use and deemed safe and effective by the WHO or by the WHO recognised SRAs.
- A data driven, risk-based and internationally harmonised approach to re-establishing freedom of movement, that is consistent across countries, easy to communicate and clearly understood by travellers.
- Global adoption of ‘digital health passes’ which enable travellers 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 and travel operator systems accepted by all countries. Digital verification of a traveller’s COVID status prior to travel will avoid lengthy and unsafe queues in transport hubs and terminals.
- Continued implementation of high-quality health and safety standards throughout all areas of the Travel & Tourism sector, including continued adoption of the WTTC’s Safe Travel Protocols and Safe Travel Stamp, with the continued wearing of face masks in crowded and enclosed areas as well as on all forms of public transport.
WTTC advocates the full implementation of these proportionate and responsible guidelines for travel during over the next few months, as many travel restrictions begin being eased as major travel markets begin to reopen.