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Requiring a COVID Vaccine for Travel Is Discriminatory, Tourism Group Says

By Michelle Baran

Jan 14, 2021

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There should be a stronger reliance on testing for travel—not vaccines—according to WTTC.

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There should be a stronger reliance on testing for travel—not vaccines—according to WTTC.

If vaccinations become a requirement for travelers, those further down the list, such as younger travelers or those where the vaccines aren’t being made available as quickly, will be at a disadvantage.

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As coronavirus vaccines are slowly and steadily rolled out in the United States and abroad, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has issued a strong warning that relying on the vaccinations as a passport to entry for travel would exclude too many travelers.

“The common-sense approach is to allow the free movement of people who can prove a negative [COVID-19] test result, rather than reserve traveling or jobs for a small minority who have been vaccinated,” Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the WTTC, said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Among the issues Guevara raised is the scale of the effort to inoculate the world’s population and the order in which people will receive the vaccines. Her concern is that if countries or travel companies require vaccinations from travelers, those further down the list, such as younger travelers or those in countries where the vaccines aren’t being made available as quickly, will be at a disadvantage.

“It will take a significant amount of time to vaccinate the global population, particularly those in less advanced countries, or in different age groups, therefore we should not discriminate against those who wish to travel but have not been vaccinated,” Guevara added.

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It’s not the first time Guevara has expressed her concerns about an overreliance on vaccines as a means for opening up travel. During a December 17 media briefing hosted by the Common Trust Network, a collection of entities working with the CommonPass health app to open up travel, Guevara stressed that she didn’t think the emphasis should be on vaccinations but rather on testing as a means to safely open up borders and travel. Her statements came even some as her colleagues on the panel voiced their opinions that proof of coronavirus vaccines would likely become a requirement for entry by countries, airlines, and others.

Dangui Oduber, minister for health, tourism, and sport of Aruba, who was on the same panel, said that the second half of 2021 is when we’re likely to begin to see countries requiring proof of vaccination from travelers entering their borders.

Eric Piscini, global vice president of blockchain for IBM Watson Health, which is developing the digital IBM Health Pass to allow travelers to upload health data like testing and vaccination information, discussed the issue with AFAR in an interview last month. He believes that from summer 2021, “We’re going to be at a point where it’s going to be expected from an individual to be able to demonstrate their [vaccination] status. And I think we’re going to be in that world for quite some time.”

Australia’s Qantas Airlines has said it will ask international travelers to show proof of vaccination. And Israel is reportedly issuing a “green passport” to citizens who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, allowing them to travel abroad without being tested, according to Newsweek.

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Instead, the WTTC “wholeheartedly supports the testing on departure of all travelers to ensure passengers can prove they are COVID-19 free and thus avoid the spread,” Guevara said.

The organization is calling for an internationally recognized rapid and cost-effective testing regime at departure points worldwide to avoid exporting the virus and to restore international travel.

The WTTC statement came just as the CDC this week issued a new order requiring all international passengers flying into the United States—including U.S. citizens returning from abroad—to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding.

Currently, international travel remains highly restricted, with countless bans and requirements such as testing and quarantines in place for travel into and out of the United States. The airline and travel industries have been pushing governments for months to use COVID testing as a way to further open up travel and borders amid the pandemic. While some countries have done so, many still do not have testing protocols in place.

>> Next: How Vaccine Passports Will Actually Work

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