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As international travel returns, confusion persists over vaccines

When Turkey was removed from Britain’s red list for travel last month, Sally Morrow, an English expatriate living in the Turkish capital Ankara, ran to her computer and booked flights to London, so that she could be more than six years old. After some time, he could be reunited with his ailing parents. months apart.

But soon after her ticket was confirmed, 47-year-old Morrow read that the certificate she had received while vaccinated in Turkey – with Pfizer coronavirus Vaccine – will not be accepted in the UK. As a result, Morrow would need to be quarantined for 10 days and have at least three negative coronavirus tests before being allowed to leave the isolation there.

“I had the Pfizer jab, the Rolls Royce of vaccines, just like millions of Britons did, yet I’m considered unaffiliated just because I got my vaccine overseas,” Morrow said.

“It’s outright discrimination, and it’s a disgrace. What do they think? That the Turks are selling knockoff vaccines at the Grand Bazaar?” That said, referring to an Ottoman-era market in Istanbul known for selling counterfeit designer wares.

Over the summer, many countries opened up to international visitors following the successful rollout of vaccination programs, but with fragmented rules about which vaccines would be accepted and which documentation was required, as well as compatibility between vaccine apps. The shortage has left many travelers confused and frustrated about where they can go without the extravagant headaches and restrictions.

Less efficacy, more stringent restrictions

According to Oxford University, Our World in Data, more than 2.7 billion people worldwide have been fully vaccinated with a range of vaccines, which vary in degree of efficacy. COVID-19 database. In Asia, the United Arab Emirates and South America, millions have received Sinoform, Sinovac and other vaccines manufactured in China, but concerns over their efficacy have resulted in many countries not recognizing them for travel purposes. millions more who received domestic vaccines such as Sputnik V in Russia and covaxin In India, those who have not received approval from the World Health Organization are also limited in where they can go.

Britain eased its travel rules this week, expanding the list of recognized vaccination certificates from other countries and territories, including Turkey and India, but excluded certificates from several countries in Africa and South America. In terms of vaccines, the United Kingdom, the 27-member European Union and the 26-country Schengen Area accept four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency – AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – but the UK and several EU states do so. We do. Despite their approval by WHO, Sinopharm and Sinovac do not recognize vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that the United States is still in a “regulatory process” to determine which vaccines will be accepted for fully vaccinated travelers into the country in November. But vaccines listed for emergency use will be recognized by the WHO, including AstraZeneca, the agency said. The Sputnik V vaccine, which has been approved in more than 70 countries but not yet by the WHO, is unlikely to be accepted by the United States as it initially reopens for international travel.

These confusing regulations on approved vaccines are not limited to the UK and the United States. Experts warn that a haphazard and preferential approach to travel rules is creating a two-tiered system in which those with the most effective vaccines – mainly in the West – are able to cross borders freely, while developing Countries that have received vaccines have a low efficacy, no. They fear such policies will contribute to vaccination hesitancy in parts of the world where the most widely accepted vaccines are not available.

Melinda Mills, director of the Leverhulme Center for Demographic Sciences at the University of Oxford and lead author of the Royal Society report reviewing the feasibility of vaccine certificates, developed the rules “opaque and contradictory” and said they were “leaving people out a lot.” Were “desperate.”

Even after being allowed to enter a country, foreign visitors may face difficulty accessing establishments or services that require a vaccine “passport” or certificate, such as restaurants and museums. (Photo: Pixabay)

“We are seeing cracks in these regulations where one country is on one country’s red list and another’s green list, or when one type of vaccine is accepted by some countries but not by others,” she said. “And many of these systems are not designed to handle people of multiple nationalities and those working across borders.”

‘Most places treat you as if you haven’t been vaccinated’

To circumvent the restrictions, some multinational travelers have received additional doses of various vaccines in another country – vaccines that are more widely accepted around the world. Anita Engel, 45, a German national working in Dubai, received her second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine in the United Arab Emirates in June. When she went to Germany in August, she received two shots of Moderna Vaccine.

“The world opened up this summer, but I couldn’t go anywhere with SinoFarm without quarantining or doing a PCR test. Most places treat you like you’re without vaccinations,” Engel said. “I found Moderna in Germany so I could travel to Europe and reconnect with my friends, but I also felt safe. as it provides more protection against variants.”

Engel experienced serious side effects after his second dose of Moderna Vaccine. A doctor told her that her body was reacting adversely to high levels of antibodies because of the short time she had to mix different vaccines, and that she should have had an antibody test before taking the third dose.

“He told me that I should have done an antibody test before I got my third vaccine, and I shouldn’t have made the decision without consulting a medical professional,” she said. “I felt stupid for taking the risk, but I’m not going to lie — it feels great to be able to travel again.”

There is limited data on the efficacy and safety of mixing and matching vaccines. A WHO expert panel has issued a recommendation to use Pfizer or Moderna Vaccine as a second dose after the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine, if a second dose of the same vaccine is not available. A clinical trial led by the University of Oxford showed that combining AstraZeneca and the Pfizer vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the coronavirus.

In the early stages of vaccination in the spring, some countries offered mixed doses of vaccines due to lack of supplies. In Canada, at least 3.9 million people received two separate shots and are now facing travel restrictions as many countries, including the US, consider only fully vaccinating people with two equal doses.

“For Canadians, I think a booster shot will be a potential get-of-jail card to match the dose of the first vaccines,” Dutch Canadian Mills said.

And where is your document?

Due to compatibility issues between types of verification software, even after being allowed to enter a country, foreign visitors may face difficulties accessing establishments or services for which the vaccine is “passported” or certified. , such as restaurants and museums.

While on vacation in August, Jason Trenton, a 49-year-old music technician who had been vaccinated in New York in April, was turned away from a Paris restaurant because the host was unable to scan his Excelsior pass, which was published by New York City. Released was a mobile app. York State.

In June, France launched its own app, called Health Pass, which stores vaccine certificates and PCR test results and is needed to access bars, restaurants, shopping centres, tourist destinations and public transport. Is. At the time of Trenton’s visit, this system was not available to US citizens.

“Most places accept CDC paper vaccine cards, but I didn’t want to take it with me because it’s so easy to lose,” Trenton said. “It’s all for coincidence, and you just have to hope that someone will accept your pass without scanning it. It worked in most places, but it’s stressful because you make reservations and plan your day.” But you don’t know if it will work or not.”

In some countries, such as Switzerland, travelers who are not from the surrounding EU must apply for domestic vaccine certificates, which are required for indoor dining and cultural activities, but can take up to seven days to obtain.

“It’s all very unnecessary and confusing,” said 59-year-old John Morris, an English teacher living in Istanbul. He has decided not to go home until the UK recognizes the Pfizer vaccine received in Turkey. “These rules are biased towards developing countries. I got this great vaccine under a very efficient health system in Turkey, and I would travel anywhere to get it accepted. “

Morrow, however, got fed up with waiting to see her parents and boarded her flight to London this week. She is staying at a friend’s house for five days before taking a PCR test, which will allow her to come out of isolation quickly.

“I’m sharing a house with my friend Wendy, who has the exact same vaccine as me, but still doesn’t make sense for some reason, if she goes abroad and comes back she goes straight to the pub. I’ve locked myself for days while I’m free,” said Morrow.

“These governments need to make rules that really make sense and are backed by data if they want people to respect and follow them.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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