Will Nigerians need a COVID-19 Vaccine passport to travel?

Will there be a covid-19 vaccine passport that will serve as a legal pass into another country? This has been the recent major headline surrounding the covid vaccine lately, not only in Nigeria but other parts of the World. The Travel industry worldwide is trying to get back to its feet amid the Global Pandemic which has negatively affected that industry. The emergence of the covid19 vaccine has brought a sigh of relief, not only to the travel industry but to everyone. Air travels have resumed in the country, though on a stricter measure. At present, people who have had a Covid shot receive a vaccination card/certificate, and the details go on their medical records.

The good thing about the vaccine certificate is, it comes with a QR code. “Anytime the person wants a form of certification anywhere, all they need to do is to scan that code, which brings out information about the person’s vaccination,” an official of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency said. Information about those who have been vaccinated is stored in the cloud, hence can be retrieved anywhere, anytime because of the QR code.

Nigeria already has plans to issue vaccination cards stamped with QR code identifiable globally. However, there has been no concrete official order that this certificate will be used as a condition for international travels.

Nigerians’ reaction to the vaccine

When the news of the vaccine first broke out about a month ago, it received mixed feelings from Nigerians. Infact, many Nigerians are yet to take the vaccine because of rumors about the side effects of the vaccine such as blood clots, headaches, rise in body temperature, etc. The Vaccine accepted by the Nigerian Government is the AstraZeneca vaccines donated via an arrangement between MTN mobile communications company and the African Union. The Federal Government led by President Buhari and Vice President Osibanjo has urged Nigerians to go for the Covid-19 Vaccination, assuring Nigerians of its safety.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Abuja, Nigeria, on March 6, 2021.

Despite the backlash & rejection the Astrazeneca vaccine has received from many countries, the Nigerian Government has backed the usage of the vaccine in her country. In a statement on April 16, Dr. Faisal Shuaibu, who leads the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), announced that the government is moving up its timeline for administering the second dose of the jab to factor in global supply challenges, as well as its capacity to get more vaccines and deliver on its COVID-19 response plan to vaccinate 70% of the country in the next two years.

Covid-19 Vaccine Certificate vs Covid Test Certificate

The Covid test certificate is different from the Covid Vaccine certificate. The Covid-19 Test Certificate is awarded after the Covid Test is taken to ascertain if a person is positive or negative with the Covid-19 virus. It is then tendered as one of the documents used for international travel out of a country, into another country. Some countries demand you run another Covid test upon entering their countries, while some request you are isolated for 14 days before being allowed into the Public.

President Muhammadu campaigning for Covid-19 vaccine

On the other hand, the Covid Vaccine Certificate is issued after a person has taken a shot of the Covid-19 Vaccine as administered in their country. In Nigeria, the AstraZeneca vaccines are administered. The Covid-19 Vaccine certificate is not used as a legal tender for international travels, though it is being discussed by countries.

It should be noted that Nigeria does not prioritize giving the vaccine to non-Nigerians or tourists. Travelers who desire a COVID-19 vaccine should be vaccinated before arrival. While vaccines are now available in Nigeria, the government is focusing on health care workers, frontline workers, and the elderly. Additionally, the vaccine is only available for Nigerian citizens.

What approach are other countries taking concerning the Vaccine?

Progressively, countries are considering adopting the ‘vaccine passport’ as a legal means of access into their countries. Some European nations including the UK, Israel, Denmark, etc, as well as the USA, China, etc. are among those strongly advocating the use of the vaccine passport.

Analysts have predicted that if these countries succeeded with the Vaccine Passport adoption, many Nigerians will be affected, especially if adopted by countries such as the UK where most Nigerians travel the most, for tourism, education, business. This is because of :

  • Nigerians’ reluctance in accepting the vaccine (as discussed above).
  • Shortage of the Vaccine in circulation as there are 3.92 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine currently available for only 1.92 percent of the 206 million population. AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t the only vaccine produced & endorsed by WHO.

The shortage of the vaccine isn’t only limited to Nigeria, as many countries also suffer this. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) initiated a program called COVAX. It aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world. A supply of 600 million doses to Africa is being talked about, enough to vaccinate at least 20% of the population.

Should Nigerians be worried about the Vaccine Passport?

The World Health Organisation (WHO), disapproves of the use of proof of vaccination in international travel as a condition for departure or entry, citing that clarity on the effectiveness of vaccination in reducing transmission of the virus has not been attained. The closest thing to a verification that is globally accepted for entry into any country is the International Certificate for Vaccination or Prophylaxis – popularly called ‘the yellow card’.

Yellow card and Nigerian Passport

With this news, Nigerians have nothing to be worried about regarding the Vaccine Passport. However, it would be advisable for Nigerians to go for the vaccine, with the recent move by many countries to facilitate a Vaccine Passport for international travel.

 

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