China issues ‘world-first’ COVID-19 vaccine passport in boost for travel

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To reboot the international travel industry, China has issued the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine passport, which shows a user’s vaccination status, recent coronavirus test results and antibody test results, according to reports.

Although only 3.65% of China’s population has been vaccinated, the vaccine health certificates were launched on Monday for Chinese citizens to download on social media platform WeChat.

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Travelers wearing protective masks use their smartphones to scan a QR code before entering Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. (Yan Cong/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The certificate is also available in paper form and is not yet mandatory.

The digital certificate will “promote world economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

Lijian added: “The pandemic is still with us, but the world economy needs to be restarted and people-to-people exchanges resumed with no more delays.”

It’s unclear which countries will recognize the passport.

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Travelers wearing protective masks push their luggage through Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. (Yan Cong/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A senior World Health Organization official on Monday said that so-called “vaccine passports” for COVID-19 should not be used for international travel because of numerous concerns, including the ethical consideration that coronavirus vaccines are not easily available globally.

WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said there are “real practical and ethical considerations” for countries considering using vaccine certification as a condition for travel, adding the U.N. health agency advises against it for now.

“Vaccination is just not available enough around the world and is not available certainly on an equitable basis,” Ryan said.

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Travelers wearing protective masks push their luggage outside Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. (Yan Cong/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

WHO has previously noted that it’s still unknown how long immunity lasts from the numerous licensed COVID-19 vaccines and that data are still being collected.

Ryan also noted the strategy might be unfair to people who cannot be vaccinated for certain reasons and that requiring vaccine passports might allow “inequity and unfairness [to] be further branded into the system.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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