The World Health Organization (WHO) does not currently support the use of “vaccine passports” for travel due to equity concerns, an agency official said Tuesday.
Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO emergency program, said he is concerned such a requirement could exacerbate vaccine equity issues.
He told reporters that the WHO supports vaccination certificates as a way to provide a health record for people who have been vaccinated, but the issue takes on a different consideration whether the certificates are used to attend work, school or to travel.
Ryan said that until more countries have equal access to vaccines, it would be unethical to require proof of vaccination to travel.
“We already have a huge vaccine equity issue in the world. Imposing requirements for vaccination certification before travel could introduce another layer of such inequity,” Ryan said during a news conference. “If you don’t have access to the vaccine in one country, you are isolated as a country as vaccine passports kick in.”
Ryan also noted that there are still questions about whether vaccines can prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.
He said the agency’s working groups continue to discuss the matter and that the recommendation may be reviewed.
Ryan’s comments echoed the facts by a WHO spokeswoman early Tuesday. According to Reuters, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris also said the agency does not endorse vaccine passports for travel.
“We, as WHO, are saying at this stage that we would not like to see the vaccination passport as a requirement for entry or exit because we are not sure at this stage that the vaccine will prevent transmission,” he said. according to Reuters.
“There are all those other questions, in addition to the issue of discrimination against people who cannot get the vaccine for one reason or another.”
Talking about vaccine passports in the US has sparked pushback among conservatives who have raised concerns about a possible government overreach that would discriminate against Americans who choose not to get vaccinated and infringe on their privacy rights.
The White House has argued that it would give in to private companies if they wanted to implement some kind of vaccine passport system.