The World Health Organization on Tuesday indicated that while now is not the time to use COVID-19 vaccine passports, they could be implemented in the future.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference that vaccine passports should not be used at this time, particularly not as a prerequisite for travel “because of lack of vaccine equity.”
“But for the future, when vaccine coverage increases globally, it can be considered,” he added.
Tedros said WHO is working with countries that are considering using the documentation.
“That’s why we’re helping countries who are working on vaccine passports so that we can have a uniform system when vaccine passport is needed and when it’s time to use it,” Tedros said.
But vaccine passports – a form of documentation proving a person is fully vaccination against COVID-19 – at this stage in the pandemic would lead to discrimination against countries with little access to the shots, Tedros said.
The comments come after Britain canceled its plans to introduce vaccine passports to access venues like nightclubs and other crowded events. But Sajid Javid, Britain’s health secretary, said the passports could be “a potential option” for the future as the country grapples with a late summer coronavirus surge.
“We’ve looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports,” Javid told the BBC.
Vaccine passports have been seen as a way to restart economies to some, while others have criticized the documentation as creating further divide between wealthy nations and low-income countries that don’t have widespread access to the shots.
The topic also faces strong pushback from those who are vaccine hesitant or who do not wish to share their health data. U.S. health officials have said that it is not the role of the government to create such a passport or hold that kind of data on its citizens.
But other countries like France and Italy require documentation of coronavirus vaccination or a negative test to participate in some activities like dining indoors.