Home Travel Health Airlines Seek WHO’s Support of Post-Vaccination Travel Without Quarantine

By LAURIE BARATTI  JANUARY 28, 2021

Doctor wearing PPE administering vaccine to a patient.
Doctor wearing PPE administering vaccine to a patient. (Photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/zoranm)

Aviation and travel industry groups are entreating the World Health Organization (WHO), a United Nations agency, to back the notion that it’s safe for those who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 to fly without quarantining.

On January 27, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that WHO’s support of this principle is vital to the development and acceptance of its digital Travel Pass smartphone app, the purpose of which is to help people resume travel as soon as epidemiological conditions allow.

“We can say whatever we want, what we do need is for the WHO to come out and say the same thing, so that it becomes a universal acceptance that once you’re vaccinated you should not have to go through any of these hoops,” IATA’s senior vice president for passenger matters, Nick Careen, said in a briefing.

Another crucial component of IATA’s Travel Pass app is the adoption of shared global standards for vaccine certificates—an action that needs to happen much faster than the efforts are currently moving.

“We have been suggesting this for months,” he said. “The WHO needs a fire lit underneath it to get this done sooner rather than later. Even then, there’s no guarantee that every government will adopt the standard right away.”

The Travel Pass app is essentially ready to go and is scheduled to launch in March. Paper-based certificates are more susceptible to fraud than digital documentation, with several known instances of fake vaccination credentials having already occurred.

WHO’s Emergency Committee on COVID-19 stated on January 15 that it’s still unknown whether immunization also prevents the inoculated person from transmitting the virus to others, according to Bloomberg. The agency isn’t recommending that countries require proof of vaccination from inbound travelers, but is saying they should instead rely on coordinated, evidence-based measures to ensure safe travel.

Since the pandemic’s early days, the travel industry and airlines have been pleading with global governments and institutions to work together to develop common standards that would make cross-border travel easier. Throughout the crisis, nations have made many abrupt changes in their travel policy, which, paired with the inconsistency of protocols from one country to the next has deterred most people from traveling, leaving many companies with dismal outlooks.

Careen said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recognized that those who are fully vaccinated should be able to travel freely; and that those who have already recovered from COVID-19 should be exempt from quarantine and testing requirements, going on the premise that it rendered them both immune to reinfection and incapable of transmitting the virus.