The World Travel & Tourism Council has warned the restart of international travel could be seriously delayed without worldwide reciprocal recognition of all approved Covid-19 vaccines.
The global tourism body issued the message following concerns about tourists being turned away at borders because countries do not have a common list of internationally recognized and approved Covid-19 vaccines.
It comes days after British holidaymakers, who were given the batch of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced in India, were rejected entry into Malta despite the drug being identical to the UK-made vaccine. Malta has since updated its travel advice to allow UK residents affected to enter.
There have also been reports of holidaymakers refused entry to flights in recent weeks due to ‘wrong’ or ‘unrecognised’ vaccine batches, said the WTTC.
It called the lack of international coordination to agree a list of approved vaccines a further stumbling block to restarting travel, despite most vaccines securing the approval of the World Health Organisation or Stringent Regulatory Authorities (SRAs) such as the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Virginia Messina, senior vice president of the WTTC, said: “Reciprocal recognition of all vaccine types and batches is essential if we are to avoid any further unnecessary and damaging delay to restarting international travel.
“The failure of countries to agree on a common list of all approved and recognised vaccines is of huge concern to WTTC, as we know every day travel is curbed, more cash-strapped travel and tourism businesses face even greater strain, pushing ever more to the brink of bankruptcy.
“We can avoid this by having a fully recognised list of all the approved vaccines – and vaccine batches – which should be the key to unlocking international travel, not the door to preventing it.
“It will also give holidaymakers and travellers the confidence they need to book trips, flights and cruises, confident in the knowledge that their fully-vaccinated status will be internationally recognised.”
The plea for reciprocal recognition for all vaccines and vaccine batches forms part of the WTTC’s four new guidelines to safely resume international travel, which include a combination of Covid-19 testing, vaccination, travel passes and health and safety protocols, such as face masks.
The guidelines call for protocols for vaccinated travellers, including no testing or quarantine; a harmonised approach to re-establish freedom of movement; global adoption of digital health passes; and implementation of high quality health and safety standards.