NASSAU, BAHAMAS —The Global Tourism Crisis Committee has underscored the need for vaccine passports in order to jumpstart international tourism amidst the ongoing global pandemic.
The committee met in Madrid last week during the 113th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Executive Council to advance solid plans to restart tourism.
The meeting focused on the integration of vaccines into a harmonized approach to safe travel and launching a coordinated effort to boost confidence in the sector.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “The rollout of vaccines is a step in the right direction, but the restart of tourism cannot wait.
“Vaccines must be part of a wider, coordinated approach that includes certificates and passes for safe cross-border travel. In the longer term, we also need to restore confidence in tourism.
“The United for Travel campaign will help us achieve this, providing a clear and strong message that safe tourism is now possible.”
As countries around the world move to roll out vaccines against the virus, the committee noted that this opens a critical window to promote the safe resumption of international travel.
Members have called for increased coordination, within the framework of the International Health Regulations, of vaccination certificates to ensure the implementation of common, harmonized digital-related travel principles, protocols and documents.
They have also called for support of the standardization, digitalization and interoperability of testing protocols and certification systems, based on commonly agreed evidence and risk-assessment indicators for origin and destination country/territory.
Additionally, the committee urged support of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) initiative for the development and coordination of a harmonized system in all countries to open borders safely in coordination with the UNWTO, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
While some countries have started vaccinations, the distribution of vaccines continues to move slowly, with global supply challenges.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/WHO has said that it will not support the implementation of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination passports, according to Deputy Director of the PAHO Health Emergencies Department Dr Sylvain Aldighieri.
During a press briefing earlier this month, Aldighieri explained that with limited access to and supply of vaccines globally, the move would widen inequalities.
“At present, WHO is not recommending proof of vaccinations against COVID-19 as a tool for introducing changes to the way that people are engaging in non-essential occupational activities, in travel, in religious and cultural activities,” he said when asked about the organization’s position on the matter.
Aldighieri noted that there is currently a lack of evidence whether vaccination would reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.
He called on local and national authorities, the private sector and citizens to make an effort in understanding the current science behind vaccination efforts and to operate in a spirit of solidarity.
The Bahamas is a part of the COVAX Facility convened by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO, which will afford countries in the region the best opportunity to fast-track access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The COVAX Facility will offer access to a basket of 15 possible vaccines.