COVID immunity passports

In February 2021, the WHO emergency committee made temporary recommendations in relation to a number of COVID-related issues, including travel. At this time, the committee did not advise for the use of immunity certification as a prerequisite for travel due to a variety of reasons. Firstly, an adequate vaccine is not widely available globally and therefore it is estimated that an immunity certification right now would lead to restricted travel rather than permit more travel. Secondly, the WHO has insufficient data to understand the extent to which vaccinations will interrupt transmission and especially the risk of an individual to continue transmitting disease. While this is the situation right now, it is anticipated that the WHO will revisit this topic once vaccinations are widely available, and more robust data is available on how vaccinations impact the transmission dynamics of the virus. Vaccine certifications can form part of a long-term strategy for disease control and for the prevention of disease potentially moving from one place to another. For example, the yellow fever vaccination requirements, which have been in place for a number of decades now. Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of Health Emergencies at the WHO commented “we don’t foresee this [immunity certification] as an immediate requirement or need, however, it will be discussed in the coming months”.