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World body opposes âvaccine tourismâ
A nurse fills a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNtech coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine on Jan. 4, 2020 at the Antonin Balmes gerontology center in Montpellier in the south of France.
AFP/Pascal Guyot

World body opposes ‘vaccine tourism’

Elijah Felice Rosales (The Philippine Star) - May 17, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Developed economies are asked to refrain from using their surplus of vaccines to attract tourists to visit their countries, as this may risk the recovery of travel in developing nations struggling to purchase doses.

In a position paper, the World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCTE) warned against giving free vaccines and related certificates to visitors in foreign destinations.

Called vaccine tourism, Canada and the United States are now exploiting their excess supply of doses to boost inbound arrivals to the detriment of developing countries.

However, the practice only exposed the inequity of vaccine distribution worldwide, groups said.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), for one, said vaccine tourism will fail to reverse the slowdown in international travel in 2020.

Last week, PAHO said the practice will just benefit developed economies holding on to the doses instead of sharing them with developing nations.

In response, the WCTE said governments should prohibit the inclusion of vaccination in travel packages offered to foreign travelers.

“The provision of vaccines and related certificates at destination countries should not form part of package tours and similar products nor should such initiatives be supported by governments,” the position paper read.

The committee also appealed with authorities to release travel certificates to tourists of all kinds, whether they are immunized or not, for as long as they comply with entry requirements.

“The certificate should be limited in duration and its use should be discontinued as soon as the World Health Organization no longer considers COVID-19 a PHEIC [public health emergency of international concern],” it added.

Likewise, the committee said the travel certificate should be used only for international travel. It should also be made available in both digital and print formats for maximum accessibility.

Governments are told to protect the data privacy of visitors when they log their personal details on the travel certificate. The document should also be free of charge, the committee said.

Governments worldwide differ in their approach on how to resume international travel as soon as possible, as developed countries, particularly in the European Union, tend to favor mandating foreign guests to present a vaccine passport.

On the other hand, developing economies like the Philippines look to set up travel bubbles with source markets to restart their respective tourism sectors.

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