Countries should not require travelers to present so-called “vaccine passports” for international travel during the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic, as such a demand would be unfair to nations with limited vaccination capabilities, a senior World Health Organization (W.H.O.) official said Monday.
“Vaccination is just not available enough around the world and is not available certainly on an equitable basis,” Dr. Michael Ryan, director of the W.H.O. Health Emergencies Program, said at a press briefing March 8.
Ryan said the W.H.O., the United Nations’ (U.N.) official health body, advises against the use of coronavirus vaccine passports for now while there are still “real practical and ethical considerations” surrounding their implementation.
The W.H.O emergencies chief also noted vaccine certification as a condition for travel could be unfair to people who cannot be vaccinated for various reasons. Such a stringent travel requirement would potentially allow “inequity and unfairness (to) be further branded into the system,” Ryan said.
More than 200,000 people in the United Kingdom (U.K.) have signed a petition urging the government not to introduce vaccine passports for both domestic and foreign travel. The petition’s high number of signatures means U.K. parliament members may debate the request. Vaccination for the Chinese coronavirus is not currently mandatory in Britain. The petition’s authors argue vaccine passports “would be unacceptable” as they could be “used to restrict the rights of people who have refused a Covid-19 [coronavirus] vaccine.”
The petition gained traction with Britons after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced February 23 he had appointed U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove to review a possible “vaccine certificate” or vaccine passport scheme, which could see Britain’s existing National Health Service smartphone app “updated to include proof of vaccination,” according to the BBC. The U.K. government had previously said it did not plan to introduce such a program.
U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the government wants to enable Britons to prove their coronavirus vaccination status if other countries require such proof for travel abroad.
“There are some areas where we know it is going to be needed to have this certificate to show whether or not you’ve been vaccinated,” Hancock told Britain’s LBC radio station on February 26.
“For instance, international travel to some countries – if another country says you can’t come in unless you have the jab, then we want Brits to be able to demonstrate that,” the health secretary said.