When it comes to international travel, not all COVID-19 vaccines are created equal, according to new research.
As governments around the world roll out plans for allowing vaccinated international travellers within their borders, many jabs aren’t getting the stamp of approval.
Despite causing issues for those travelling to Europe, the AstraZeneca vaccine is the most widely accepted vaccine in terms of certification, with approval from 119 countries.
But as you go down the list, it gets more complicated. The next most accepted vaccine is Pfizer, which will allow travellers to access around 90 countries, followed by Russia’s Sputnik V qualifying for around 65.
Further down the list, India’s Covidshield, which is made identically to the AstraZeneca jab being administered across Europe (and Australia), will get you into less than 50 countries, while China’s CanSinoBio is only recognised by a small handful.
However, as The Economist points out, your choice of vaccine doesn’t cease to matter once you cross the border.
While the US doesn’t currently require proof of vaccine to the countries it is currently open to, many venues in the states have indicated they will require proof of an FDA approved vaccine for entry, which excludes even those who have received the AstraZeneca jab.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is sticking to its original recommendation that countries do not ask travellers for proof of vaccination upon entry, given the limited global access and inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
WHO also recommends that people who are vaccinated should not be exempt from complying with other travel risk-reduction measures, like undergoing a COVID-19 test or wearing a face mask due to the number of scientific unknowns when it comes to transmission.
“Data from vaccination studies show that some vaccinated persons may still become infected and develop disease which, in most instances, is mild,” the WHO said in its most recent position paper.
“Hence, international travellers who are vaccinated are unlikely to develop severe COVID-19 disease and consequently they do not impose increased strain on health systems at the countries of destination.
“However, their ability to infect others and the risk they pose for further transmission remain unknown.”
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has also called out international governments for being selective when it comes to vaccine certification, pointing out that uncertainty around what will be accepted has fuelled concerns from consumers, deterring them from booking overseas trips.
“The failure of countries to agree on a common list of all approved and recognised vaccines is of huge concern to WTTC, 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,” said Virginia Messina, senior vice president at the WTTC.
“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.”
Last week, it was revealed that Aussie travellers who opt for the AstraZeneca vaccine may be denied entry to some European countries.
The same applied to those who receive India’s Covidshield.
Although both the Aussie and Indian versions of the jab are made exactly the same as those administered in the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not approved CSL’s Melbourne facility or India’s Serum Institute of India (SII).
Featured image source: iStock/Maridav