Qantas plans to make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for travelers once the airline resumes international flights next year, and expects other airlines around the world to follow suit.
Talking to Channel 9’s Current Achievement tonight, CEO Alan Joyce said “we are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say that for international travelers, we will ask people for a vaccination before they can get on the plane.”
The prospects of compulsory vaccination on domestic flights would depend on “what is happening with COVID-19 in the market, but for international outbound visitors, and people leaving the country, we are we think that’s a necessity. “
Joyce added that proof of vaccination would likely be stored in an electronic ‘digital passport’ already being developed by airlines and governments around the world.
His comments are in line with the government’s new National Vaccination Policy released earlier this month, which suggested that overseas visitors may have to produce a vaccination certificate before boarding their flight to Australia.
“There may be … circumstances in which the Australian Government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are subject to a vaccination test,” states Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.
Qantas alone would not require passengers to pack a passport containing a vaccination test.
“I’ve been talking to my colleagues in other airlines around the world, and I think that will be a common theme overall,” added Joyce.
“What we’re looking at is how you can get a vaccination passport, an electronic version of it, that certifies what the vaccine is, is it acceptable to the country you are traveling to. “
“There’s a lot of logistics, a lot of technology that will need to be put in place to make this happen, but the airlines and governments are working on this as we speak.”
Active Traveler understands that work is already being done by several government agencies on how the smartchip could be modified in modern passports to include a ‘vaccination pitch’ or whether a new passport containing some form of vaccination stamp would be required.
Joyce added that he was “very optimistic” on vaccine prospects, which could “see (international) borders open quite significantly through 2021.”
New vaccines show promise
His comments came as the results of the latest Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trial indicated that it could be 70% effective, although the company claimed 90% efficacy could be achieved using a regimen of initial half-dose to the body’s ‘primes’, later followed by a second full dose.
The Australian government has signed up for 33 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which would be manufactured locally at the Melbourne laboratory of global biotechnology company CSL.
Another 10 million doses have been ordered from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was shown earlier this month to prevent more than 90% of symptomatic infections in a trial of tens of thousands of volunteers.
An additional vaccine under development at the University of Queensland, with around 50 million doses for mass production locally from mid-2021, is expected to begin phase three clinical trials before the end of this year.
Introduce Australian vaccination
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has said the country’s COVID-19 vaccine program – likely to start with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot – is “on track” for distribution in March 2021.
“Our national goal is to get all Australians seeking to be vaccinated by the end of 2021,” Hunt said.
There will be free injections for all Australians and visa holders eligible for Medicare, although they will not be mandatory, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirming that Covid compulsory vaccination “is not government policy and has never been government. “
“Of course, we would encourage people to take the opportunity. But they will make their own choices and we will try to provide the necessary assurances about vaccine safety.”
It is understood that the Covid-19 vaccines will usually require two injections: a starter, followed several weeks later with booster, and an annual dose similar to a winter flu shot may also be needed.
First, vaccines are given to frontline and aged care workers and quarantine workers whose jobs put them at increased risk of exposure and transmission.
Next on the list will be people who are at higher risk of catching a serious case of Covid-19 because of their age or underlying health conditions.
Injections are then introduced into what are described as “essential service workers”: a group that has not yet been fully defined but encompasses “key occupations” that provide services “which are essential to social functioning ”.
With those three centers in question, any member of the public – a group highly likely to include potential overseas travelers – could snap a photo.