Travel health security - the case for Covid-19 vaccination
There is an ongoing discussion about 'Vaccine Passports', personal freedom of choice to have a foreign substance injected into your bloodstream and associated infringement of human rights by mandating vaccination. There is also a growing community of 'Anti Vaxxers' pushing false information into the public domain, creating doubt in a minority about various government hidden agendas regarding vaccination and even challenging the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Its important to differentiate between travel, the workplace and mass gatherings at public events.
Governments have a responsibility for the safety of their citizens and not least the associated cost to the tax payer and wider economy of national 'lock downs'. It is not unreasonable for any government to require inbound travellers to have been vaccinated against disease, including Covid-19.
There is precedent for vaccination and there is no need to turn this into a 'circus'. For example, some countries require evidence that you have been vaccinated against Yellow Fever before being allowed entry. In the UK a traveller has to pay for the yellow fever vaccine; it typically costs between £60-£80. Whilst there are some exceptions, the Yellow Fever vaccination lasts for life. Data is not yet available to show how long a Covid-19 vaccination is effective for.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis also provides a record of all other diseases that a traveller is immunised against, for example Rabies, Hepatitis A and B, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Typhoid, Polio, Meningitis etc. In that regard surely there is no need for a Covid-19 'Passport', it could just be added to this record as proof of vaccination.
A country health, risk based approach is appropriate. Outbreak and levels of disease need to be continually monitored across all countries to ensure the best vaccination and immunisation advice can be given to travellers. In the UK this advice comes from National Travel Health Network and Centre (NathNac). The process for travellers is under review and details will be issued by governments in due course. Whilst evidence of Covid-19 vaccination might be sufficient for travellers entering from a country designated as 'low risk', testing before departure, screening on arrival and even quarantine, may be appropriate for entry from countries designated as higher risk.
Disease outbreaks can spread very quickly and travellers should not be surprised if the Covid -19 protection regime is changed at very short notice. Travellers should consider 'what if' they get infected overseas and should not travel if they are not prepared to quarantine at the destination and / or on return.
Travel insurance. The implications of becoming unwell overseas have a direct impact on the travel insurance industry. I am not aware of plans for travel insurers to require policy holders to have been vaccinated but it could reduce risk. Perhaps discounts could be offered for vaccinated policy holders?
Test kits. Cost will always be as issue in the developing world. You're required to have a breathalyser kit in your vehicle when driving in France, for use by the Police if required. Perhaps in the future some countries might require travellers to carry their own Covid -19 Antibody test kits.
All employers have a fundamental responsibility to provide a safe work place. Experience shows that the Health Care sector including Care Home's are particularly vulnerable. Whilst the personal choice and human rights arguments are understood, it does not seem unreasonable for employers to require employees to be vaccinated. Vaccination protects every employee, their families, visitors to that business and the wider population. Infection in the work place has an immediate impact on business continuity and the livelihoods of all. If an employee is not vaccinated, and remembering that there may be some that cannot be vaccinated for underlying health reasons, they could be allowed to work from home if their job lends itself to remote working.
Public Gatherings and Events
Organisers have an overarching responsibility to ensure event safety. This applies to all mass gatherings including football stadiums, festivals, theatres, pubs etc. Here again it seems to me that individuals have a freedom of choice to decide whether they wish to attend and if they do then should abide by whatever rules are set for the event or venue. Again vaccination protects every individual and all those around them at the event.
Anti Vaxxers & Doubters
Educate don't legislate. A detailed, well published and advertised education program is required to inform pandemic and vaccine doubters. Everybody has a responsibility to themselves, their children, family and friends, colleagues at work and the wider population. Vaccination is simple and takes just a few minutes. Please willingly accept your vaccine when its offered and lets get working and travelling safely again.
UK National Travel Health Network and Centre (NathNac)
USA Centre for Disease Control (CDC)