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WHO panel comes out against requiring vaccination proof for travel

WHO panel comes out against requiring vaccination proof for travel
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A World Health Organization (WHO) panel last week came out against any requirements that travelers show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination in order to enter certain countries, highlighting its concern that such measures would aggravate inequities. 

WHO’s Emergency Committee released a statement on Monday detailing its members’ advice to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, including to avoid any mandate for people to prove they took the vaccine before traveling into countries.

The panel specifically cited concerns about inequity as the vaccine remains less available in certain areas and nations, especially countries that could not afford to collect a large stockpile of vaccine doses. Others, such as the U.S., invested heavily in vaccinations and built a supply that President BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE reiterated last week is enough to vaccinate the American population. 

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“Do not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, given the limited (although growing) evidence about the performance of vaccines in reducing transmission and the persistent inequity in the global vaccine distribution,” the committee’s recommendation reads. “States Parties are strongly encouraged to acknowledge the potential for requirements of proof of vaccination to deepen inequities and promote differential freedom of movement.”

The Emergency Committee also called attention to sailors who may be blocked from crossing international borders due to requirements to prove they got the vaccine.

“Special attention should be paid to seafarers who are stranded at sea and who are stopped from crossing international borders for crew change due to travel restrictions, including requirements for proof of COVID-19 vaccination, to ensure that their human rights are respected,” the recommendation reads. 

The panel’s advice aligns with what Mike Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said earlier this month about the organization not supporting “vaccine passports” that serve as proof of vaccination.

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

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The debate over vaccine passports has ramped up in recent weeks in the U.S., with Republicans arguing that such mandates would impede on a person’s right to privacy and decision to get vaccinated. 

Several GOP governors, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisTrump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece GOP governors embrace culture wars with White House in mind Cruise ships eager to set sail after court victory MORE and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, have signed executive orders banning requiring vaccine passports, while other states, like Tennessee, are considering similar measures. 

But other states run by Democratic governors, such as New York and Hawaii, have said they are looking into a vaccine passport program.

Biden’s White House has repeatedly said the federal government will not institute a mandatory vaccine passport, saying the decision would fall to private institutions on whether they wanted that restriction.