PH opposes 'vaccine apartheid' in global travel

Published May 27, 2021, 6:47 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The Philippines has opposed any potential “vaccine apartheid” in international travel and called for global pact recognizing the coronavirus jabs approved by World Health Organization (WHO) sufficient for the entry of travelers.

A health worker prepares to administer a coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination site in Paranaque City on May 18, 2021. (Ali Vicoy/Manila Bulletin)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque asserted that there should no discrimination on the vaccines taken by international travelers as long as the vaccines secured the approval from the global health body.

Roque made the statement after some countries prepare to reopen their borders to fully vaccinated visitors. Some nations were reportedly planning to impose vaccine passports while others were mulling on blocking the entry of travelers inoculated with Chinese-made vaccines.

“If a vaccine makes it to the WHO emergency use list, then we should not discriminate against or in favor of any of these vaccines in that list,” Roque said over ANC’s Headstart Thursday, May 27.

“And that’s why I think the direction we’re headed for is to come up with an international agreement recognizing all those in the WHO EU list as vaccines which would be sufficient to allow international travel. Otherwise, they would be some kind of, for lack of a better term, vaccine apartheid again,” he added, comparing the disparity in global access to vaccines to the previous South African discriminatory apartheid system.

Roque observed that there were apparently “economic motivations” behind some countries’ preference for certain vaccines.

“If the WHO says they’re all equally effective and safe, and yet you insist on specific brands, it must be because your country is manufacturing those brands and you’re marketing your brand. See, and that’s why it’s important to have an international agreement otherwise we have apartheid all over again,” he added.

‘China will retaliate’

Roque also cautioned the western nations about the possible retaliation from Beijing if they discriminate against the vaccines by Chinese companies.

“Of course China will also retaliate. China is only the most populous country on Earth, it is actually second largest economy but soon to be the largest economy on the Earth,” he said.

“The Europeans and the Americans would think twice about not allowing their citizens into China since everyone is targeting the China market,” he added.

The Palace earlier frowned on vaccine discrimination in the field of international travel, saying vaccines approved by the WHO should be recognized.

The European Union was reportedly planning to ease travel restrictions and allow visitors from other countries to enter the bloc as long as they have been vaccinated with EU-approved vaccines. Travelers must reportedly be inoculated with vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency such as those made by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

READ: COVID vaccine discrimination has no place in int’l travel, says Roque