WHO urges western countries to accept travellers given Chinese Covid vaccine

UN health agency warns of global vaccine divide

Governments and regional authorities have been urged to recognise as fully vaccinated those who have received WHO-approved Covid-19 shots, for the purposes of travel and attending events.

The call came in a statement by Covax, a joint initiative that seeks to vaccinate the poorest countries, and is co-convened by the WHO.

Although not mentioned by name, most European and North American countries have not approved two Chinese vaccines whereas the WHO has.

“Covax was built on the principle of equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines to protect the health of people all across the globe,” Covax said.

“That means protecting their lives and livelihoods, including their ability to travel and conduct trade.”

In May, the EU said it would only recognise people as vaccinated if they had received shots licensed by the European Medicines Agency. However, individual countries have the power to let in those who have received other vaccines.

“Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the reopening of travel into and with that region would effectively create a two-tier system, further widening the global vaccine divide and exacerbating the inequities we have already seen in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines,” Covax said.

“It would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most. Such moves are already undermining confidence in life-saving vaccines that have already been shown to be safe and effective, affecting uptake of vaccines and potentially putting billions of people at risk.

“At a time when the world is trying to resume trade, commerce and travel, this is counter-effective, both in spirit and outcome.”

The EU drug regulator is currently considering licensing China's Sinovac vaccine, but there is no timeline on a decision.

Updated: July 2nd 2021, 7:04 AM