A group of senior university scientists have said travelers might need to be vaccinated every time they go abroad.
In a new report published by the Royal Society Journal, several eminent scientists from Oxford University, Cambridge and elsewhere have cast doubt on the longevity of vaccine protection, prompting them to suggest travelers might need to be vaccinated for every trip they take.
“The rate at which immunity wanes, and the rate at which SARS-CoV-2 escape mutants emerge, will influence the types of vaccine that can be used and certified in any locality, and the how often vaccination certificates would need to be renewed,” they write.
“An additional question is whether passports could be taken away, potentially at short notice and if so how.”
Epidemiologist Christopher Dye from Oxford told the London Telegraph that although the group was not insisting travelers should be vaccinated before every trip, they nonetheless saw it as a distinct possibility.
“If we thought that the duration of protection was just a matter of months, then the sort of criteria that might be introduced – we’re not saying they should be – is that when one travels internationally for a short trip, going on vacation for example, that one is vaccinated each time on that occasion for that particular trip,” he explained.
“An effective vaccine passport system that would allow the return to pre-Covid activities, including travel, without compromising personal or public health, must meet a set of demanding criteria,” said Dye.
A co-author of the paper, Professor Melinda Mills, recently warned that vaccine passports could “exacerbate existing inequalities” however.
“(Vaccine passports) could inadvertently discriminate or exacerbate existing inequalities,” she said.
“The intended use will have significant implications across a wide range of legal and ethical issues.
“Is it literally a passport to allow international travel or could it be used domestically to allow holders greater freedoms?
“We need a broader discussion about multiple aspects of a vaccine passport, from the science of immunity through to data privacy, technical challenges and the ethics and legality of how it might be used,” Mills insisted.
The minister in charge of rolling-out Britain’s vaccination programme has said his country will provide vaccine passports for travel if it is required by other countries.
“Internationally, if other countries will require a vaccine certificate, then I think it’s right that we facilitate it,” Zahawi told the BBC.
“We’re not looking at the domestic use of vaccine passports, that’s not in our planning. As the prime minister described, it’ll be the national vaccination programme combined with rapid testing that I think is the way forward.”
Ireland’s minister for health Stephen Donnelly has confirmed the Irish government is also considering the issue of vaccine passports.
“Some of the airlines have already floated the idea that you would need one of these vaccination certificates in order to fly,” he told the Irish Times.
“The answer to how exactly they might be used depends on how the vaccines perform in terms of things like transmissibility. When we have recommendations from the experts on the appropriate use of it, then we can decide what’s the easiest and most secure thing to do, in terms of is it paper-based or card-based, for example, like our driver’s licence, or is it a digital certificate that you might have to submit to an airline before being able to book a flight.”