Coronavirus (COVID-19) Editors' Choice World

Sat 16 January 2021:

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday it was opposed “for the time being” to the introduction of certificates of vaccination — so-called “vaccine passports” — against COVID-19 as a condition for allowing international travellers entry into other countries.

Several countries have already signalled their interest in producing vaccine passports in some form, including Spain, Belgium, Iceland, Estonia, and Denmark.

The key emergency committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday that a lack of data on vaccine safety is a barrier to ensuring a quick and equitable global supply of vaccines and recommended against countries issuing vaccine passports.

“If you look at the recommendation made by the committee around vaccination for travelers, it says at the present time that the committee does not recommend including a requirement of proof of vaccination for international travel,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies program.

“It is not because that would be a good idea in the future,” he said. “But because we are lacking critical evidence regarding whether or not these persons were vaccinated, continued to be affected or continue to transmit disease.”

The ethics of vaccine passports has been the subject of debate, with the UK’s University of Exeter recently publishing a study on their impact on human rights.


Civil liberties organisations are alarmed about the project. “Vaccine passports would create the backbone of an oppressive digital ID system and could easily lead to a health apartheid that’s incompatible with a free and democratic country,” says Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch. “Digital IDs would lead to sensitive records spanning medical, work, travel, and biometric data about each and every one of us being held at the fingertips of authorities and state bureaucrats.

“This dangerous plan would normalise identity checks, increase state control over law-abiding citizens and create a honeypot for cybercriminals.”

“Digital health passports may contribute to the long-term management of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they pose essential questions for the protection of data privacy and human rights,” Ana Beduschi, an associate law professor and one of the report’s authors, told Euronews.

She added that the requirement to show your health records in order to access public and private spaces would serve to marginalise people and restrict their freedom.

“Arguably, such measures could preserve the freedoms of those who do not have the disease or have been vaccinated,” Beduschi said. “However, if some people cannot access or afford COVID-19 tests or vaccines, they will not be able to prove their health status, and thus their freedoms will be de facto restricted”.

It recommended countries not require vaccination proof from incoming travelers but advised nations to implement “coordinated, evidence-based measures for safe travel and to share with WHO experiences and best practices learned.”

During the group’s bi-weekly news webinar, the confirmed global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University in the US.

“Health workers are exhausted, health systems are stretched, and we’re seeing supplies of oxygen run dangerously low in some countries,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus. “Now is the time we must pull together as a common humanity and rollout vaccines to health workers and those at the highest risk.”

The pandemic continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the committee on COVID-19 again declared.

“The committee strongly encouraged vaccine manufacturers to rapidly provide safety and efficacy data to the WHO for emergency use listing,” it said.

“The lack of such data is a barrier to ensuring the timely and equitable supply of vaccines at the global level.” It “strongly encouraged vaccine manufacturers to rapidly provide safety and efficacy data to the WHO for emergency use listing.

“The lack of such data is a barrier to ensuring the timely and equitable supply of vaccines at the global level,” it said,

The effects of vaccines in reducing transmission are yet unknown and the current availability of vaccines is too limited, the committee added.




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