WHO looking at possible ‘e-vaccination certificates’ for travel

GENEVA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recommend that countries issue "immunity passports" for those who have recovered from Covid-19, but is investigating the prospects of using e-vaccination certificates, a WHO medical expert said yesterday.

"We are looking very closely into the use of technology in this Covid-19 response, one of them being how we can work with member states towards an e-vaccination certificate," the expert told a virtual briefing.

Meanwhile, Mr Hans Kluge, WHO's regional director for Europe, said vaccine supplies were expected to be limited in the early stages and countries must decide who gets priority, though WHO believes there is "growing consensus" that first recipients should be older people, medical workers and people with comorbidities.

Britain approved Pfizer's vaccine on Wednesday, jumping ahead of the rest of the world in the race to begin the most crucial mass inoculation programme in history.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson touted it as a global win, though he recognised the logistical challenges of vaccinating an entire country of 67 million.

US and EU regulators are sifting through the same Pfizer vaccine trial data, but have yet to give their approval.

WHO also said it had received data from Pfizer and BioNTech on the vaccine, and was reviewing it for "possible listing for emergency use", a benchmark for countries to authorise national use.

The new coronavirus still had the potential to do "enormous damage", Mr Kluge said, but "the future looks brighter" as other vaccine candidates, including from Moderna and AstraZeneca, have also delivered positive trial results.

Separately, Pfizer's chief executive, Mr Albert Bourla, said he was confident that by the end of next year, there would be more vaccine doses than required to fight the pandemic.

Mr Bourla said governments need to ensure other measures are not relaxed in the meantime.

"I think it is important to use the vaccine as one tool," he said, adding that "undeniably it's going to be the most effective, with the most permanent impact." - REUTERS