Australia’s national airline Qantas has announced that once the covid-19 vaccines become readily available they will require proof of vaccination to fly on international flights. It is expected that other airlines will follow suit.
The airline’s CEO Alan Joyce said in an interview with CNN affiliate Nine News on Monday that the move would be a “necessity” when coronavirus vaccines are readily available.
Joyce said the airline was looking at changing its terms and conditions to “ask people to have a vaccination before they get on the aircraft.”
Whether a vaccine requirement for travel becomes the international standard is at this stage far from certain. There are also questions about whether governments would mandate such a move — and the legalities of doing so — before allowing international travelers into their countries.
Joyce said Qantas was looking at the potential for passengers to have a “vaccination passport” that “certifies what the vaccine is and whether it’s acceptable to the country you’re traveling to.”
It’s something the airline industry is thinking seriously about.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) — the body representing airlines globally — said Monday that a digital health pass, which could include vaccine information, is the key to opening borders.
The IATA Travel Pass is now in its final phase of development. The airline body is planning to conduct a cross-border pilot test run later this year, with the aim of launching in the first quarter of 2021.
This is not really new. When I was young, in addition to one’s passport one needed another passport-like yellow book that had a record of what vaccinations one had had. International travel required you to have that document with you and present it at immigration to be allowed in. At that time, I recall the vaccinations were for cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, and so on and what vaccinations you needed was determined by what country you were from and what country you were visiting.
In the past, travelers from the developed world were thought to be disease free and only required to have that document if they were traveling to a country where the diseases were endemic, while travelers from the developing world usually needed that certification book to go anywhere.
If the Qantas practice becomes widespread, I wonder what the anti-vaxxers will do. A lot of the anti-vaxxers come from the middle and upper classes, the kind of people who travel internationally.
And what if proof of vaccinations becomes necessary even within a country for various purposes? Right now, I believe public schools can require children to be vaccinated before they are allowed to attend. But would employers be able to require it of their employees? Would businesses be able to require it before they let you enter their premises? You can be sure that in the US there will be legal cases, with people demanding to be exempt because of their religious beliefs or because they have been persuaded that vaccines are dangerous or part of some conspiracy orchestrated by Bill Gates to inject them with microchips that would track their movements. That loony theory circulating in the fever swamps of the internet has gained enough support that Gates had to issue a denial, not that that will do much good.