Philippines wants all COVID vaccines on WHO list deemed sufficient for global travel

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 27 2021 12:11 PM | Updated as of May 27 2021 12:27 PM

A syringe and a vial labeled "coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine" are placed on a passport with printed words "COVID-19 vaccinated" in this illustration taken April 27, 2021. Dado Ruvic, Reuters

MANILA - The Philippines will seek an international agreement that would recognize all vaccines included in the World Health Organization's emergency use list as sufficient for international travel, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday.

Several nations are planning to introduce "vaccine passports" to make it easier for people who have been inoculated against COVID-19 to travel internationally. 

In the interview, Roque said countries should not discriminate based on brand because this might lead to "vaccine apartheid."

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"I think 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," he told ANC's Headstart.

"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, there would be some kind of, for lack of a better term, ‘vaccine apartheid'," he said.

Roque said economic motivations cannot be detached from this preference for COVID-19 vaccines despite the WHO stating that all shots are safe and effective.

"If the WHO says they are 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 brands," he said.

"That’s why it’s important to have an international agreement, otherwise we have apartheid all over again," he added.

Asked if the Philippines will speak out on this, Roque said: "I think so."

He added, China would "retaliate" if plans to discriminate based on vaccine brands would push through.

"China is not only the most populous country on earth. It is actually second largest economy, but soon to be the largest economy on earth. I think the Europeans and Americans would think twice about not allowing their citizens into China since everyone is targeting the China market," he said.

The European Union is reportedly planning to reopen its borders to foreign individuals who have been fully vaccinated with EU-approved coronavirus shots. So far the EU has approved vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

The bloc also announced last month plans to launch COVID travel passes, which would allow those vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or with negative test results to travel more easily in the region. Under this, apart from the EU-approved vaccines, countries could also issue certificates covering coronavirus shots, such as Russia's Sputnik or China's Sinovac vaccines that are only authorized on their territory.

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