Travelling overseas is not the same as it used to be pre-COVID times. International travellers now will have to travel with a vaccine passport as proof of immunisation before their entry to a country. However, there is not yet a standardised version for this vaccination passport system. Each country follows their own COVID-19 restrictions that include which types of COVID-19 vaccine are accepted for a person to enter the country without having to quarantine.
A vaccine that is approved by WHO for emergency use might not be recognised in some countries in the EU or the UK. Therefore, it is important to check whether the type of vaccine you have received is approved by the desired country without the need to isolate yourself upon arrival.
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In this article from the CabinZero team, we will be having a look at which vaccines are the most widely recognised globally, as well as more information about the vaccine passport systems worldwide.
>> Check out: Can I travel to Ireland from the UK during COVID-19 ?
Which COVID-19 vaccines are widely accepted for international travel?
According to recent research from the Economist, AstraZeneca is currently the most widely accepted COVID-19 vaccine in most nations for international travel - recognised by 119 governments, followed by the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sputnik V.
A chart of widely recognised COVID-19 vaccines for cross-border travel by The Economist
The type of vaccine you get will determine whether you can enter a country or a destination, or whether you have to spend 2 weeks in quarantine upon arrival.
As seen on the chart, the AstraZeneca vaccine is accepted by most countries, however, many countries in the EU do not recognise the AstraZeneca vaccine that is made in the Serum Institute of India (Covishield) although they accept the version made in the EU.
Several countries are combining COVID-19 vaccines although this vaccine combination is said to be not accepted by some governments.
Vaccine acceptance among countries has been complex and confusing, therefore Visa Guide World has created a Vaccine Checker tool that helps you with a quick check on whether the type of vaccine you’ve taken is accepted in a country you are about to enter.
We have also listed below the list of vaccines that are recognised by the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency, as well as in the US, the UK and Australia for your reference.
Which COVID-19 vaccines are accepted by the World Health Organisation (WHO)?
Currently, the WHO has approved 7 types of vaccines, which includes:
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
- Covishield (Oxford/AstraZeneca formulation)
- Vero Cell (Sinopharm)
- CoronaVac (Sinovac)
Which COVID-19 vaccines are accepted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA)?
The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently authorised for use in the EU approved by the EMA include Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech), SpikeVax (previously Moderna), Vaxzevria (previously AstraZeneca) and Janssen.
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Some COVID-19 vaccines that are currently under rolling review include Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine, Vero Cell vaccine, Vidprevtyn, NVX-CoV2373 and CVnCoV vaccines.
You can find out more about each type of COVID-19 vaccine on the EMA website here.
Which COVID-19 vaccines are accepted by countries in the EU and the EEA as immunisation proof for entry?
A total of 29 countries in the EU and the EEA recognise all the vaccines that are approved by the EMA as valid proof of full immunisation. Those who have fully vaccinated with the type of vaccine listed in the EMA list of approved vaccines will be able to enter an EU country restriction-free.
However, as each country has their own COVID-19 restrictions on international travel, several countries do recognise the vaccines that are included in the WHO’s Emergency Use Listing. The Covishield vaccine manufactured in India is widely accepted in these EU countries besides the EMA list of approved vaccines.
As for the two types of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in China, Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, only 9-10 countries recognise them as proof of immunisation for entry.
Which COVID-19 vaccines are accepted in the United Kingdom?
Currently, the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK are:
- Moderna vaccine
- Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
- Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
- Janssen vaccine (available later this year)
>> Check out: Can I Travel within The UK during COVID-19?
Which COVID-19 vaccines are accepted in the United States?
Currently, there are 3 types of COVID-19 vaccines that are authorised for emergency use or FDA-approved in the US, which includes:
- Comirnaty and Pfizer BioNTech vaccine
- Moderna vaccine
- Janssen vaccine
Which COVID-19 vaccines are accepted in Australia?
The 3 types of vaccines for use approved by The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia:
COVID-19 Vaccine Passport Systems
A vaccination passport is a document issued either in digital or paper form and acts as proof of immunisation ticket against COVID-19 for international travellers. This document can include a person’s vaccination status (date and type of vaccination), test results and/or COVID-19 proof of recovery.
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Many countries have developed their vaccine passport system while several other countries are in the process of developing their own. Here are the updates on how countries have been catching up with the vaccine passport programs.
The EU has developed their vaccine passport and introduced it across its 27 member countries - plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The EU COVID-19 Vaccine Passport/Certificate from the European Commission is a document that can be issued in the form of digital or paper. Learn more about it here.
Recently, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has endorsed the EU Digital COVID Certificate and urged other countries to use it their own standard certificates, as “the absence of a global standard makes it much harder for airlines, border authorities and governments to recognise and verify a traveller’s digital vaccination certificate,” said IATA SVP for operations and safety and security Nick Careen.
The UK has been using their NHS COVID Pass to show the holder’s vaccination details or COVID-19 test results. This pass can be used abroad or at some events when required.
In the US, a mandatory federal COVID-19 vaccination passport was introduced by The White House in April, however, a few US states have developed their own vaccination apps.
The federal government in Canada has announced that they will introduce vaccination passports for international travel this fall. They are working with other nations so that Canadian digital passports will allow them to enter their territories. The passports will include the vaccination information (what type of vaccination was used, when and where it was received).
Australia will start to roll out their vaccination passports in October as a digital vaccination certificate. This will be a part of an internationally agreed system as the app and the passport will meet international standards.
China has developed their vaccination passport system, which can be downloaded from WeChat or requested in a printed form.
Singapore has launched a digital certificate result called HealthCerts and having its vaccine passport system under review. Singapore Airlines has proceeded with a digital health verification process that allows passengers to present their vaccination status and COVID-19 test results.
South Korea has launched a COVID-19 mobile application called COOV which incorporates blockchain technology to ensure safety and privacy for users. It uses a QR code that will show the holder’s vaccination status and the period of time that the doses have been received.
Japan will issue their COVID-19 digital vaccination certificate in December, which will be available on mobile phones and used for international travels.
Thailand has approved a system of using digital health certificates to track users’ vaccination status and COVID-19 test results for international travel.
Vietnam has developed their vaccination certificate in a form of mobile application where the vaccination status of its citizens is updated. This pass will allow the people to partake in social activities once the country is open up again. In terms of tourism, Vietnam is expected to welcome tourists with vaccination passports starting from October, with Phu Quoc island being the pilot destination for the trial.
While countries have developed or are developing their own vaccination passport system, India is against the concept of vaccine passports. This opposition is based on the fact that vaccines are not equally distributed among countries and this leads to the impact on low and middle-income countries - with people fully vaccinated are at a much smaller proportion compared to those in a developed country.