Why airlines fear vaccine passports may not be the answer


Although the Covid-19 vaccination passport initiative is well meaning, there are too many variables and unknowns for it to be effective – and airlines will want to know who will be responsible.

Will it be a requirement by governments to show the certificate on entry to a country? Or is it something that needs to be provided to the airline before travel?

Burdening airlines with the responsibility of checking and verifying certificates will come at a high cost. This is particularly if, as when someone does not have the correct visa to enter a country, it then becomes the airline’s duty to fly that passenger home. This is unfair on airlines, which are already stretched financially because of the pandemic.

If it is a requirement for airlines to be responsible for proof of vaccination before travel, this could also prove costly for them to manage.

Why the yellow fever model could be the answer – if certificates are made secure

Vaccination certificates are already required for certain destinations, for diseases such as yellow fever. Travellers undertake a test at a local doctors surgery or airport, then simply present the certificate to immigration officers at airports to fly to another country and gain entry. But they are just yellow pieces of paper – easy to forge and difficult to enforce.

If Covid-19 vaccination passports become a reality they will need to be much more secure and far more rigorously policed. This method might be a realistic proposition if it is managed in the correct way, in the same way the yellow fever certificate currently operates.

Moral issues with mandatory vaccine certificates

For sure, it’s very important that the air traffic gets moving as soon as possible as the current situation cannot be sustained for a long period. However, the main problem with vaccination passports is that it is not mandatory to take a Covid-19 vaccine. So, as some people are choosing to decline the vaccine, it would be unfair for countries to demand them to evidence it.

Making vaccine certificates mandatory could alienate a group of people who have chosen for one reason or another not to have the vaccine. What about those who are not able to have the vaccine due to medical reasons, will they have an exemption in place? Also how do children fit into the equation as they are currently not required to have the vaccine so they could still transmit it. There are so many questions.

Additionally, there is still no proof that a vaccine means you cannot transmit the virus. Until it is clear this will not happen then vaccine certificates look a risky system to implement.

Catriona Taylor is group passenger operations director at air charter specialist, Chapman Freeborn.

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