Government AffairsSinovac, Sputnik or AstraZeneca? The question mark hanging over international travel.

Covid dose of reality for vaccine passports

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IATA calls for a common approach to vaccine passports.
IATA calls for a common approach to vaccine passports. Photo Credit: Getty Images/ronstik

Moves to introduce digital vaccine passports to speed the return of international travel are facing significant barriers.

There are growing concerns that some countries will not allow tourists to enter if they have not had a vaccine approved by their own health authorities.

Vaccines such China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik may face hurdles if nations do not recognise their efficacy.

In June, Canadians, who had received the AstraZeneca were banned from the United States because the vaccine had not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. That decision was subsequently reversed.

Australia this week announced plans for digital vaccine passports, a move welcomed by IATA as a “key enabler to reopen borders and restart international travel”.

IATA said it was also important that Australia recognises the vaccine certificates issued by other countries “so as to allow travellers to enter Australia with minimal restrictions”.

The association has its own IATA Travel Pass app, which allows passengers to prove they are safe to fly by displaying a negative Covid test result.

IATA’s call for countries to recognise each other’s vaccine passports has been supported by Australian lobby group, Tourism and Transport Forum, whose chief executive Margy Osmond said, “Our biggest market has always been China, China is Sinovax largely, is Australia going to accept that vaccination as an appropriate vaccination?

“Probably, but we don’t know it at this point.”

Many countries have confirmed that they are closely watching vaccine passport developments in other parts of the world and will develop their own systems.

Japan will begin issuing digital Covid-19 vaccination certificates in December. These vaccine passports will be available as a smartphone app, primarily for overseas travel.

An EU vaccine passport is being introduced across all 27 member nations - plus Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. IATA has openly endorsed the EU Digital Covid Certificate and urged countries to use it as a standard for their own certificates.

China’s Covid vaccination passport can be downloaded through WeChat, or users can request them in paper format.

In April, the White House ruled out introducing mandatory federal Covid vaccination passports, saying US citizens' privacy and rights should be protected. However, a few US states have developed their own vaccination apps.

Meanwhile, Singapore has vaccine passports under review alongside its already launched HealthCerts, a digital test result certificate, and Singapore Airlines is pressing ahead with a digital health verification process allowing passengers to present their vaccination status and Covid-19 test results.

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