UNETHICAL REQUIREMENT

Stop Covid-19 vaccine passports, WHO urges

If implemented, no Kenyan is eligible to travel until the second dose of the vaccine in June

In Summary
  • Kenya will also begin issuing Covid-19 vaccine certificates after the second jab in June, said head of the Covid-19 vaccine deployment Dr Willis Akhwale.
  • Only less than 900,000 Kenyans have been vaccinated with the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 
Abigail Owilla, a nurse administers Covid-19 vaccine to a health worker at Mutuini Hospital, Dagoreti on March 9, 2021.
Abigail Owilla, a nurse administers Covid-19 vaccine to a health worker at Mutuini Hospital, Dagoreti on March 9, 2021.
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

World Health Organisation has said people must not be required to prove they have taken Covid-19 vaccine in order to travel overseas.

The WHO said although there is evidence vaccination breaks the chain of transmission, the current inequity of vaccine distribution makes such requirements unfair and unethical.

Currently, most countries in Africa have vaccinated less than one per cent of their populations while in Europe and US they are past 50 per cent.

“States Parties are strongly encouraged to acknowledge the potential for requirements of proof of vaccination to deepen inequities and promote differential freedom of movement,” said the statement of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.

The committee met last week in Geneva.

While getting vaccinated for Covid-19 is not mandatory anywhere, many airlines around the world have indicated they will be requiring proof of vaccination.

Many countries have also gone ahead to develop electronic vaccine passports, that might lock out millions of potential travellers.

The African Union has already rolled out its “Trusted Travel Platform”, which automates cross-border verification of health certificates, whether for testing or vaccines.

“By preventing the use of fake certificates, it helps manage the spread of the disease. By facilitating cross-boarder travel, it helps restore travel, tourism and trade – major pillars of our African economies,” the African CDC said in a statement.

Kenya will also begin issuing Covid-19 vaccine certificates after the second jab in June, said head of the Covid-19 vaccine deployment Dr Willis Akhwale.

The WHO further asked countries to reduce the financial burden on international travellers for the measures applied to them, such as testing, isolation/quarantine, and vaccination.

However, the WHO's recommendations are not binding and are likely to be rubbished by many countries.

This video demonstrates the full capabilities of the IATA Travel Pass.

For instance, the United Kingdom already banned travellers from Kenya and when the border reopens, only those who have been vaccinated might be allowed to travel.

Last week, Dr Mike Ryan, who leads WHO’s public health emergencies programme, also said prohibiting a person from travelling simply because they could not access a vaccine was unethical. 

“The imposition of requirements for certification of vaccination before travel could introduce another layer or such inequity. If you don’t have access to a vaccine in the country then you will effectively become isolated as a country as vaccine passports kick in,” he said in an online press conference.

The WHO also urged countries to engage and enable communities, the media, and civil society stakeholders in response efforts to reduce pandemic fatigue and enhance vaccine acceptance.

Only less than 900,000 Kenyans have been vaccinated with the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

The second and last dose will be given from June.

-Edited by SKanyara