Inconsistent vaccine approval delays tourism restart in Malaysia and globally

The failure of countries to agree on a common list of approved vaccines is a concern to many tourism stakeholders. — LOW LAY PHON/The Star

Approved vaccine inconsistency could seriously delay the restart of tourism, said the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

The warning from the global tourism body came following concerns that tourists are being turned away at the borders because countries don’t have a common list of internationally recognised and approved Covid-19 vaccines.

WTTC senior vice president Virginia Messina said the failure of countries to agree on a common list of all approved and recognised vaccines is a huge concern to tourism stakeholders worldwide.

“Reciprocal recognition of all vaccine types and batches is essential if we are to avoid any further unnecessary and damaging delay to restarting international travel,” she said in a statement.

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Reports of holidaymakers facing obstacles to enter a foreign country have been on the rise over the past few weeks. Some were even prevented from boarding their flights to their holiday destinations.

More recently, a number of British holidaymakers, who had been administered the Indian Covishield batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine, were rejected entry into Malta.

According to WTTC, reports of travellers being turned away because they have the “wrong” vaccine batches or “unrecognised” vaccines have sparked concern from consumers. These incidents would deter travellers from booking holidays and thereby damaging the already struggling travel and tourism sector, the tourism body said.

These reports of the wrong vaccine comes despite most vaccines being approved by the World Health Organisation or other health regulatory authorities such as Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.

“We can avoid this by having a fully recognised list of all the approved vaccines – and vaccine batches – which should be the key to unlocking international travel, not the door to preventing it,” said Messina.

“It will also give holidaymakers and travellers the confidence they need to book trips, flights and cruises, confident in the knowledge that their fully-vaccinated status will be internationally recognised,” she added.

WTTC’s plea for reciprocal recognition for all vaccines is also part of its four new guidelines aimed at safely resuming international mobility and save the millions of jobs and livelihoods which depend on the tourism sector.

“As we know every day travel is curbed, more cash-strapped travel and tourism businesses face even greater strain, pushing ever more to the brink of bankruptcy,” Messina said.

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