Coronavirus: Could people who refuse to be vaccinated be prevented from travelling?

WHO is considering the use of vaccination certificates for those who want to travel internationally

FILE PHOTO: A passenger arrives from New Zealand after the Trans-Tasman travel bubble opened overnight, following an extended border closure due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo

Related: Travelling to Dubai? Our guide to testing, approvals and quarantine periods for tourists and residents

Coronavirus vaccination programmes are under way around the world.

In most countries, the first inoculations are limited to groups such as medical workers and senior citizens, but in the uae, everyone apart from a small group that includes pregnant women can now sign up for the vaccine.

Taking a vaccine is voluntary, but experts predicted that refusing one once it becomes widely available may have implications, particularly for travel.

Could people who refuse to be vaccinated be prevented from travelling on international flights?

Possibly, although it is not likely in the near future or until the vaccine is more widely available.

The World Health Organisation is looking at a plan for electronic vaccination certificates for travel.

In October, Estonians took part in a pilot project as the who developed a smartcard for vaccinations. "We are looking very closely into the use of technology in this covid-19 response. One is how we can work with member states toward an e-vaccination certificate," Siddhartha Datta, Europe's WHO programme manager for vaccine-preventable diseases said.

David Taylor, professor emeritus of pharmaceutical and public health policy at University College London said that from a British perspective, he did not expect an individuals vaccination status to affect who can or cannot travel.

"That is, the vaccine passport idea is likely to be impracticable," he said.

"As immunisation programmes lower population level risks, travel rules between states and regions will be relaxed."

However, some airlines, including Qantas, said they would make vaccinations a prerequisite for travel.

"For international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft," Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, told Australia's Nine network.

"I'm talking to my colleagues in other airlines, and I think it's going to be a common thing across the board," he said.

Can they do this?

Airlines are within their rights to impose conditions on people who travel on their flights.

Travellers to Saudi Arabia who want to perform Umrah must show they have received the ACYW vaccine against meningitis.

Could people get vaccinated overseas if they preferred a different shot?

As yet, it is unlikely that people will be able to buy a vaccine outside their country of residence.

For now, most countries are making their own at-risk groups a priority.

It is also not known if proof of vaccinations from other countries will be accepted.

Experts said it was possible if such a document was approved by all countries.

However, this will be difficult, said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at Strategic Aero Research.

"Everyone is playing catch-up in the hope some sort of global standard of acceptance can be reached.

"But that consensus will not be easy to reach, particularly when poorer countries will be at the back of the queue when it comes to getting vaccines," he said.

"And by extension, it puts people in those places at a disadvantage if they need to fly for work or to visit friends and family.

What are the potential issues with immunity passports?

In April, WHO cautioned against immunity passports because of the scope for fraud.

Despite clinical trials suggesting the vaccines are highly effective at preventing people from getting seriously ill with Covid-19, questions remain about how well they can prevent transmission. This means that those carrying immunity passports will likely still have to keep to public health measures.

With the vaccine already being freely available here in the UAE, are there any implications on travel?

With the vaccine available in the UAE, there are implications for travel.

Residents who have been vaccinated are not required to quarantine on their return to Abu Dhabi from abroad after a trip of two weeks or less.

The regulations, announced last month, apply after the first dose for those taking part in phase 3 trials, and after the second dose for those taking part in the National Vaccination Programme.

Those who have had two doses under the programme must, however, quarantine on their return if their trip abroad exceeded 14 days.

Those who have been vaccinated are exempt from taking PCR and DPI tests when crossing into Abu Dhabi from within the UAE.

However, all vaccinated residents travelling abroad are still required to take a PCR test before their flights.

They must also take the nasal swab on arrival, in addition to the fourth and eighth days after they arrived in Abu Dhabi.

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