We know that vaccines against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) are not created equal but these should be considered as the same in terms of clearing individuals for travel.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the other groups under the Covax coalition addressed this in its statement on July 1, 2021 calling for “equal recognition of vaccines.”
The Covax joint statement said it believed in the equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines to protect the health of people all across the globe. “That means protecting their lives and livelihoods, including their ability to travel and conduct trade,” it added. As travel resumes in some parts of the world, the Covax called on all regional, national, and local government authorities to “recognize as fully vaccinated all people who have received Covid-19 vaccines that have been deemed safe and effective by the WHO...”
Any measure that only allows people protected by certain vaccines to travel “would effectively create a two-tier system, further widening the global vaccine divide and exacerbating the inequities we have already seen in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.”
The Philippine government’s inoculation drive has been hampered by, among other factors, the hesitation of people to get vaccinated because they would prefer those by Pfizer and Moderna that have been proven to provide protection of up to 95 percent against the Sars-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19.
I am one of the hundreds of thousands who have been inoculated with China’s Sinovac for the simple reason that this vaccine was the one immediately and massively available in the early months of the vaccination program that started last March. I heard that those who took China vaccines Sinovac or Sinopharm would be barred from entering certain developed countries. I doubted the claims were true because barring people based on the vaccine they took would run contrary to the WHO line that the best vaccine is the one that is available. But such claims persist, forcing the Covax to issue the statement.
The Covax said that to limit travel to only those who had vaccines of higher efficacy rates undermines confidence in life-saving vaccines that have already been shown to be safe and effective. “At a time when the world is trying to resume trade, commerce and travel, this is counter-effective, both in spirit and outcome,” it said.
The Covax commended those countries that have shown commitment to equity as well as safety by accepting travelers protected by all vaccines validated by the WHO. “We call on other nations and regions to do the same,” it added.
Covax is the vaccines pillar of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator and is co-convened by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, and WHO.
The Philippine government should join Covax’s call because millions of Filipinos seeking jobs or businesses overseas or wishing to join family members abroad will be affected by an unequal recognition of vaccines.