Following indications by lawmakers and at least one airline that vaccination against the coronavirus could become a requirement for international travel, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on Monday said mandating inoculations would be discriminatory.
In a Reuters panel discussion where health experts also expressed a long road to global herd immunity, the head of the organization called for global prioritization of “vulnerable groups,” and admonished those touting potential vaccine requirements for a return to travel.
“We should never require the vaccination to get a job or to travel,” WTTC chief executive Gloria Guevara said in the Reuters video panel. “If you require the vaccination before travel, that takes us to discrimination.”
In November, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the Australian airline will probably require proof of vaccination for travel once the shots are widely available. Guevara cited that stance and said she “disagree[s] with the approach from Qantas.”
The council is part of a growing chorus of travel voices that say a return to travel will come before vaccines create worldwide herd immunity. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also been calling for a global testing strategy to replace quarantines and restart travel now, and last week America’s biggest airlines lobbied the White House to enact that strategy in the United States.
In a Friday statement on its website, the WTTC called for testing to replace quarantines worldwide, and it said its stance “supports measures designed to curb COVID-19 and protect public health but calls for the complete removal of unnecessary quarantines.”
WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network chairman, Dale Fisher, said on the Reuters video panel that global herd immunity is not likely to occur in 2021, even if some countries may achieve it this year.
“We know we need to get to herd immunity and we need that in a majority of countries, so we are not going to see that in 2021. There might be some countries that might achieve it, but even then that will not create ‘normal’ especially in terms of border controls,” Fisher said.
“We won’t get back to normal quickly.”