After a year that has been dominated, and curtailed by, the Pandemic, December 8th – called V-day by some – brought the development that everyone has had their fingers crossed for. The first vaccinations to COVID-19 were given out, beginning the largest inoculation program in history. So what does this mean for those of us desperate to travel again? What will ‘post-vaccine travel’ look like? And will ‘vaccination passports’ become essential?
What is happening?
As D-day has been seen as the beginning of the end of the second world war, so V-day is being championed as the beginning of the end of the pandemic. At about 6:30 am on the 8th of December, the first vaccination was administered for SARS-COV-19, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The UK is the first to roll out its vaccination program, as the world watches on. Fittingly, one of the first to get the jab was none other than William Shakespeare, an 81-year-old gentleman from Warwickshire.
The news was greeted by a huge surge of optimism. However, many in the medical industry and the government have quite rightly pointed out that this is going to be a long and hard road before we can – hopefully – put the pandemic of 2020 behind us.
Everyone will require not just one, but two doses – spaced 3 weeks apart to be safe from the virus. This is quite the challenge, even for the 14 million most at-risk individuals that make the highest priority list.
Will the Vaccine work?
We have to wait and hope, although the conclusions of the clinical trials were very encouraging. Both of the vaccines that are being rolled have an efficiency of more than 90%. Given that both have been approved by strict safety and effectiveness UK regulations give genuine hope of a positive outcome.
Another reason to be cheerful is that these are not even the only options. Other vaccinations are at advanced stages and when more are available they could be combined for even better results.
Can we Stop Wearing Masks For Post Vaccine Travel?
The vaccines are designed to help the body fight the virus off as quickly as possible. However, they do not stop people from catching the virus in the first place, then becoming infectious to others. In other words, those vaccinated could still pass the virus on, albeit their infection will be contagious for a shorter timeframe.
For this reason, those who are immunised will likely still be required to wear masks and observe social distancing – for the time being at least.
When is Post Vaccine Travel Likely?
Individually, it will take 28 days for everyone who is vaccinated to build up immunity to the virus. However, it is unlikely to be as simple as this. 14m high-risk people need the vaccine and this will take time to distribute. It will also require thousands of extra hours of NHS staff and volunteer’s time.
These factors, along with many other variables will determine how and when post-vaccine travel will be safe again.
All things considered, there is optimism that by the end of Spring next year much of those on the priority list will have been immunised. In fact, Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the vaccination workforce, has struck an optimistic tone. It is her ‘gut feeling’ that: “we will all be going on Summer holidays” in 2021.
Will we need COVID-19 Vaccine Passports to Travel?
For post-vaccine travel, it will clearly be a benefit in being able to show that we have been vaccinated. Especially so for the foreseeable future as some individuals will have developed immunity while others will not, and as countries will have different approaches to immunisation that will progress at different paces.
What is the difference between vaccination passports and vaccine cards?
Currently, recipients of the inoculation are presented with a wallet-sized vaccine card to record the following details:
- Name of vaccination
- Batch number
- Date administered.
It also serves as a reminder card for when their second dose is due.
Government ministers have been very careful to point out that this card is not a ‘vaccination passport’, which is currently being evaluated by a panel of experts. However, as they are likely to lead to individuals being excluded from activities and services, it is unlikely that vaccination passports will be considered for use within the UK.
Why are Vaccination Passports Not Likely in the UK?
The concept of vaccination passports undermines ‘informed consent’ which is considered a core principle of the UK medical healthcare system. This stipulates that no medication is mandatory and that every individual has the right to assess any option to reach their own decision.
Vaccination passports are likely to place additional pressure on individuals if they believe services would be withheld should they decline. This is deemed to be unethical in the UK. It would expose those who do not inoculate themselves to stigma and discrimination.
To summarise, holidays in the UK are unlikely to be affected.
Will we Need Vaccination Passports for Post Vaccine Travel?
While the UK places civil liberties front and centre, other countries take a less liberal approach. There is no escape from the fact that travel to such places is likely to require evidence of inoculation.
Currently, the World Health Organisation is exploring a vaccination certification program. This is likely to be based on the international ‘yellow card’ used to prove immunisation from yellow fever demanded by some countries before entry is granted.
Countries will look to protect their citizens. Each will take a different approach to their immunisation programs, and will advance them at a different pace. Until an adequate percentage of their populations are immunised, each government will be wary of incoming travellers for fear of further outbreaks.
Many businesses are likely to follow suit to protect the safety of their passengers too. The most prominent example so far is Qantas airlines, which have said it will be essential for passengers before they are allowed to board. Perfectly reasonable given the safeguards that have been put in place this year.
It is reasonable to expect that for the foreseeable future, producing proof of immunisation will make post-vaccine travel much easier.