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WHO does not support mandatory 'vaccine passports'

WHO does not support mandatory 'vaccine passports'
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The World Health Organization (WHO) does not currently support the use of "vaccine passports" for travel because of concerns of equity, an agency official said Tuesday.

Mike Ryan, the executive director of the WHO's emergencies program, said he's concerned such a requirement could exacerbate vaccine equity issues. 

He told reporters that the WHO supports vaccine certificates as a way to provide a health record for people who have been vaccinated, but the issue takes on a different consideration if certificates are used to attend work, school or to travel. 

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Ryan said until more countries have equal access to vaccines, it wouldn't be ethical to require proof of vaccination for travel. 

"We already have a huge issue of vaccine equity in the world. The imposition of requirements for certification of vaccination before travel could introduce another layer of such inequity," Ryan said during a press briefing. "If you don't have access to vaccine in a country, you become isolated as a country as vaccine passports kick in."

Ryan also noted there are still lingering questions around whether vaccines can prevent the coronavirus from being transmitted.  

He said agency working groups are continuing to discuss the matter, and the recommendation may be revisited. 

Ryan's comments echoed those made by a WHO spokeswoman earlier Tuesday. According to Reuters, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris also said the agency does not back vaccine passports for travel.

"We as WHO are saying at this stage we would not like to see the vaccination passport as a requirement for entry or exit because we are not certain at this stage that the vaccine prevents transmission,” she said, according to Reuters

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“There are all those other questions, apart from the question of discrimination against the people who are not able to have the vaccine for one reason or another.”

Talk of vaccine passports in the U.S. has sparked pushback among conservatives who have raised concerns about potential government overreach that would discriminate against Americans who opt not to get vaccinated and infringe on their privacy rights.

The White House has maintained it would defer to private companies if they wanted to implement some type of vaccine passport system.