5 things to keep in mind when discussing vaccines and health passports
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It’s been more than a year since the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a global pandemic.
While travel has started to pick up since then, will vaccines spur the sector’s recovery in 2021 and beyond?
FCM General Manager Bonnie Smith shares five things to keep in mind:
Vaccine programmes are moving at different speeds around the world
While the UK and US are meeting their vaccination targets (with US President Joe Biden setting an ambitious goal of returning the country to ‘near-normal by July 4, 2021), many other countries around the world are yet to gain momentum.
In the meantime, much of Europe is experiencing the third wave and countries in sub-Saharan Africa, like South Africa, are anticipating the third wave this winter (May/June).
“This means travel advisories and restrictions remain in place despite the progress around vaccination programmes,” said Smith.
Different vaccines deliver different levels of protection against different strains
Much has been made of the new strains of Covid-19 emerging around the world.
New strains have been detected in the UK, South Africa, Brazil, the US and Ghana.
It raises a key concern: How do the available vaccines hold up against emerging variants?
“Vaccine developers are working hard to establish the safety and efficacy of their vaccines against the new variants.
“We can anticipate that work around vaccines (including the development of new, second-generation vaccines and boosters) will continue long into the future,” she said.
Vaccinated or not, travellers will still need to be careful
Vaccinated travellers will need to exercise as much caution as ever.
Think masks, social distancing, and the liberal use of hand sanitiser.
Covid protocols will remain in a firm place and many innovations, like touchless tech, are likely to become an industry standard.
“Travel Management Companies will still vet suppliers and partners in the travel industry (from accommodation establishments to transport providers) to ensure strict health and safety measures are adhered to.
“In other words, returning to normal will still feel very different as we get back to travel,” said Smith.
A global approach to vaccinations will be required
Smith said this perhaps the biggest challenge of all is how will different countries handle their travel policies, especially regarding the vaccine?
She asked: “Will travellers require a health passport detailing their vaccination status?
“Will negative PCR tests still be required?
“These are just a few of the issues which need to be ironed out.”
What if travellers can’t or don’t want to be vaccinated?
A concern is that the roll-out of health passports for travel could create a divide in the traveller demographics.
Travel groups around the world have indicated that although they believe vaccinated individuals should be exempt from international testing requirements, they do not support “vaccine requirements as a prerequisite for travel”.