Last week I reviewed the facts on coronavirus and the spread of COVID-19 which led to a global rush to find a vaccine against the virus. Now that several vaccines are on the market, there is a global race by governments to obtain sufficient doses to roll out the vaccine to their populations. This race is playing out in favour of the vaccine producer countries, also the wealthier, more powerful countries that can afford it. The less powerful or poorer countries are left behind. This is a situation the World Health Organisation had warned against, lest the discrimination between rich and poor or those who have the means to get the vaccine and those who do not leads to spots where coronavirus would still thrive and constitute a global threat.
I also reviewed the priority for vaccine rollout. Almost the entire world has been unanimous in that medical teams and healthcare staff should be the first for vaccine rollout, followed by the elderly then the extremely vulnerable on a clinical level. Other sectors of the population would follow in turn according to vulnerability.
Finally, I wrote about new standards that appeared to be gaining ground on the international scene for countries to ensure that coronavirus would be kept well outside their borders. The possibility is being studied for countries to restrict entry into their borders to individuals who were vaccinated against coronavirus well ahead of reaching their arrival destination, thereby ensuring these persons would be coronavirus-free. It has been suggested that such individuals would be granted ‘green’ travel documents—green alluding to a green light—in addition to their original passports, to allow them to move freely among countries that wish to protect their borders against the virus. Such documents have been dubbed ‘coronavirus passports’.
The new ‘passport’ would replace the current cautionary measures implemented at entry points to most countries, including quarantine and mandatory tests. However, it also sets off an alarm to those individuals not among the groups targeted for priority vaccine rollout. Such individuals have the options of waiting for their turn to get vaccinated, delaying vaccination or perhaps rejecting it altogether if they have reservations about the vaccine and its long term effect, or managing in their own way to secure the vaccine for themselves. In case of persons who need to travel, there is no option but to get vaccinated in order to qualify for the coronavirus passport that would allow them to freely move around the globe. In this all are equal: young and old, healthy or sick.
Countries considering coronavirus passports as a precondition for entry have been confirming that, once required, the passport would be mandatory for businesspersons whose interests require travelling to various places around the globe, tourists wishing to explore destinations outside their countries’ borders; or sportspersons, whether individuals or on teams taking part in international competitions or events. In addition, there has been talk about issuing ‘green cards’ that would allow entry to places of public gathering such as sports, music or conference halls; shopping malls; theatres; hotels; exhibitions; festivals and suchlike for persons who take the vaccine.
It has been claimed that airline companies are eagerly awaiting the implementation of coronavirus passports which would be approved by the International Air Transport Association IATA in conjunction with governments and international agencies, to guarantee the health documents. This should help speed up recovery of the travel and tourist sector worldwide.
The decision to take the vaccine according to a person’s turn on the queue awaiting it, or to refrain from taking it in case of personal reservations vis-à-vis the vaccine, are options open only to individuals who have no intention or need of travel outside their country. That is, of course, unless their country issues decisions or implements policies that makes vaccination against coronavirus mandatory. In case of persons wishing to travel beyond their national borders, however, freedom of taking the vaccine may very well hinge upon the implementation of coronavirus passports.
19 March 2021