Jamaica’s tourism minister warns proof of vaccination for travel could be discriminatory

Edmund Bartlett

Jamaica’s tourism minister Edmund Bartlett has cautioned global leaders that any requirement for proof of vaccination for travel, which does not take into account the unequal access and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, could be considered discriminatory.

The minister made his comments in his capacity as chair of the Organization of American States (OAS), Inter-American Committee on Tourism (CITUR) Working Group 4, which was developed to create a recovery action plan for the airline and cruise industries.

Speaking recently during the group’s third virtual meeting, Minister Bartlett said: “Effective management of COVID-19 and recovery of the global economy requires a concerted and collaborative effort from all member states. We need to move together on this or else we risk a deterioration of the situation in developing countries, the effects of which will inevitably spread to neighbours in the region and beyond.”

“This is the first step in ensuring that inequity in the distribution of vaccines does not hinder the restart of tourism and related services. Any requirement for proof of vaccination for travel which does not take into account this reality could very well be considered discriminatory,” he added.

Bartlett urged members to consider all the implications that a vaccine passport could have, primarily on tourism-dependent countries. He said it is pertinent for the Americas to be a strong voice in introducing the recovery recommendations that will work for the region.

“There can hardly be a harmonised position for digital passports and other bio-sanitary protocols when some countries and regions lag dramatically behind in their health response systems, including the vaccination process. If we remain committed to leaving no one behind, we are best positioned to move farther ahead,” said the minister.

Bartlett also called for an expeditious review and approval process to facilitate quicker roll-out of safe and effective vaccines, noting that “there have been reports of vaccines being administered which have not met with widespread acceptance and the World Health Organization has a role to play as the global norm and standard-setting specialised agency of the UN on public health matters.”