No need to pull your suitcase and neck pillow from storage just yet.
In light of hype and rumor surrounding the so-called “vaccine passport,” the World Health Organization has issued a statement warning transportation officials that such clearances would not guarantee travelers are immune from spreading COVID-19 in one way or another.
Proof of immunization would be a moot requirement, as there are still more “critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission,” WHO asserted.
“WHO also recommends that people who are vaccinated should not be exempt from complying with other travel risk-reduction measures,” they wrote in a Feb. 5 statement about the proposed digital passports that show a person has been vaccinated.
They also discouraged the possibility that cautious international travelers might put a squeeze on already scarce coronavirus vaccine doses, putting disadvantaged groups at a continued risk of exposure — and extend their period of lockdown isolation.
“Individuals who do not have access to an authorized COVID-19 vaccine would be unfairly impeded in their freedom of movement if proof of vaccination status became a condition for entry to or exit from a country,” WHO wrote. “National authorities should choose public health interventions that least infringe on individual freedom of movement.”
The US, UK and other European leaders have publicly mulled safe travel programs and strategies that would pave the way for a travel industry rehab, allowing greater mobility between countries in the wake of a pandemic which has seen over 2.5 million lives lost globally since last winter. In addition to international travel, the license might potentially allow for access to bars and restaurants.
Public health experts outside of WHO’s ranks have also criticized the proposition.
“I can see that they might be useful in the longer term, but I have several concerns about them being considered at this point in time when I think the scientific evidence doesn’t support them. And there are lots of ethical concerns about them that I think are legitimate,” said Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, according to a CNBC report on Thursday.
“We know very little about the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infection or even asymptomatic disease against several variants circulating in different countries,” Dr. Gurdasani added.
The statements come at a time when scientists are learning more than ever about the enigmatic disease, including a study reported on Wednesday which revealed that the coronavirus can survive on fabric, including cotton and polyester blends, for up to three days — removed only with scorching hot water and detergent.