Qantas has become the first airline in the world to announce that it is likely to require its passengers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before travelling.
The Australian airline’s chief executive, Alan Joyce, said in an interview that “We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travelers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” and that he believes that other airlines will follow suit in this demand.
Qantas has suspended the vast majority of its international flights amid the pandemic, with just a limited schedule operating between Australia and New Zealand at present. The airline expects to reopen to international travelers next year, provided they have received a vaccine.
Strict lockdowns and the banning of international tourists have seen Australia gain control over the spread of the virus, and the country now has among the lowest new case numbers in the world. In order to maintain this success, the government has suggested in its National Vaccination Policy that overseas visitors may in the future be required to provide proof of vaccination before travel.
Vaccine Requirements Are Going To Change Travel In 2021
The potential requirement for airline passengers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 has both positive and negative implications for travelers.
On the one hand, the roll out of successful vaccines will speed up the return to something resembling normal international travel, ending almost a year of strict restrictions on movements required to control the pandemic.
By receiving the vaccine, travelers will likely be able to access destinations which have been closed off for many months, including popular vacation spots Australia, New Zealand and Canada, which have shut their international borders to non-citizens since March in order to stop the spread of the virus.
Travelers are likely to require either an international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis (ICVP) or a digital health pass, possibly attached to their passport, which would prove that they had been inoculated against the virus. Several digital health certificates are being developed by airlines and governments, including the ‘Common Pass’, an initiative backed by the World Economic Forum to prove the validity of a passenger’s COVID-19 test or vaccine.
On the other hand, the distribution and availability of the vaccines is likely to vary considerably. The focus of vaccination will initially be on elderly and vulnerable populations, meaning it will take longer to reach travelers, possibly not until well into next year.
The availability of the vaccine will also change based on location – with some countries having larger stockpiles and more advanced production capabilities. While the USA, Canada, and most European countries have ordered large quantities of the vaccine, it may take longer to reach travelers in other countries around the world.
There are also the administrative hurdles of developing health passes to consider, as this will be a largely new requirement for international travel. Digital health passes will have to be watertight and internationally recognised in order to be successful, requiring significant global cooperation between governments and airlines.
New Vaccine News Offers Yet More Hope
The announcement from Qantas coincides with the news that a third vaccine, under development by the UK’s Oxford University and pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca, has shown potential for up to 90% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 infection, following on from similar announcements by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
The initial trials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine were successful in preventing 70.4% of people getting ill, rising to 90% if an initial lower first dose is given. The vaccine has certain advantages over the others under development, including its much lower cost and the ability to store and transport it at higher temperatures.
The announcement that a third vaccine candidate can successfully prevent COVID-19 is undoubtedly good news for travelers, bringing the potential end of the pandemic and a return to vacations abroad another step closer.
In what is likely to be a heavily debated topic for years to come, COVID-19 vaccines are around the corner and they're going to have a big impact on international travel in 2021.
The only question is, are you willing to get the vaccine for countries that require it?
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories