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Report: Public health experts concerned about ‘vaccine passports’

PETALING JAYA (Feb 25): Two public health experts have voiced their concerns about the suggestion for “vaccine passports” to be given to travellers who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, FMT News reported today.

Epidemiologists Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud of Universiti Malaya and Dr Chan Chee Khoon of Citizens Health Initiative told the news portal that one problem is that such a passport would lead to discrimination.

Another problem is “uncertainties over the number of different available vaccines”.

“Many Covid-19 vaccines have been produced, but some may come from a country whose drug regulatory bodies are not recognised by others,” Awang Bulgiba said.

As a result, he explained that “some countries might not agree to admit people administered with vaccines they had not approved themselves”.

Awang Bulgiba also added that such passports would not be a good thing for citizens from poorer countries since most “of the world’s Covid-19 vaccine supplies have been bought up by developed and richer countries, leaving the poorer ones scrambling for the rest”.

“Until all nations are able to vaccinate their populations, a vaccine passport may be viewed as discriminatory and hinder the growth and recovery of poorer nations as their unvaccinated citizens may be prevented from travelling,” FMT News reported Awang saying.

He added that the vaccines might not be effective against viral mutations in the furture.

Chan said that “we also need to think about the equity implications of putting something like this in place”.

“People who tend to travel, be it for business or leisure, tend to be a bit more well off. If these people have influence on policy, it could make it harder for others to get access to the vaccine,” he added.

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