MIAMI – According to its CEO, once Qantas (QF) resumes international flights next year, it plans to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for passengers. The idea is for other airlines around the world to follow suit.
Last night, QF CEO Alan Joyce told Channel 9’s A Current Affair, “we are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travelers, that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft.”
According to the CEO, the prospects for compulsory vaccination on domestic flights would depend on “what happens with COVID-19 in the market, but certainly for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country, we think that’s a necessity.” Joyce added that evidence of vaccination is likely to be stored in an electronic digital passport that airlines and governments around the globe are already developing.
Basically, Joyce is referring to passports that contain proof of vaccination stored in a microchip.
According to executivetraveller.com, Joyce’s remarks are in line with the new National Vaccination Policy released earlier this month by the government, which suggested that prior to boarding their flight to Australia, visitors from overseas may have to produce a vaccination certificate.
The Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Policy states that There may be circumstances where the Australian Government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination. It seems the measure is poised to become a global requirement.
A “Common Theme” among Airlines
In demanding that travelers pack a passport containing vaccination proofs, Qantas would not be alone. “I’ve been talking with my colleagues at other airlines around the globe, and I think that’s going to be a common theme across the board,” Joyce added.
“What we’re looking at is how you can have a vaccination passport, an electronic version of it that certifies what the vaccine is, is it acceptable to the country you are traveling to,” the CEO is quoted saying on theExecutive Traveller report. J
oyce added that there was a lot of logistics, a lot of technology that would be needed for such an endeavor, but assured that “the airlines and the governments are working on this as we speak.”
Executive Traveller acknowledges that many government agencies are already working on how to adapt the smartchip to include a ‘vaccination zone’ in modern passports or whether a new passport containing some sort of vaccination stamp would be necessary.
Vaccine Development in Australia
Mr. Joyce and the world at large are starting to feel optimistic about a vaccine finally on the horizon. So far, findings from the new Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trial revealed that it could be 70% effective, although the company estimated that 90% efficacy could be achieved using an initial half-dose regimen to ‘prime’ the body, followed later by a second full dose.
The Melbourne laboratory of the multinational biotech firm CSL will develop 33 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine with the help of the Australian government. An additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were requested, which was shown to prevent more than 90% of symptomatic infections earlier this month in a study of tens of thousands of volunteers.
Moreover, a vaccine under development at the University of Queensland is scheduled to launch phase-three clinical trials before the end of this year with about 50 million doses to be mass-produced locally from mid-2021.
The Biggest Vaccine Rollout in History
Air cargo logistics experts say it will take anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 fully loaded jumbo flights to carry 20 billion doses around the world. The distribution program assumes only one dose per person is needed. Additionally, the global roll-out of a vaccine will generate 65,000 tons of air freight, which is five times the air vaccine trade from 2019.
IATA’s chief executive Alexandre de Juniac has said on the matter, “Safely delivering COVID-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry. But it won’t happen without careful advance planning. And the time for that is now.” Qantas’ and most every cargo arm of any national airline will be working on the rollout, as the -80 degree Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine transportation is going to be a challenge unlike any other.
According to Australia’s Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, the country’s COVID-19 vaccine program was “on track” for delivery in March 2021. “Our national goal is to ensure that all Australians who seek to be vaccinated are vaccinated by the end of 2021,” Hunt said.
Who Gets Vaccinated First?
While the Health Minister is quoted as saying that mandatory nationwide vaccination had never been and was not the policy of the government, he did say that the government “would encourage people to take up the opportunity. But they will make their own choices and we’ll be seeking to provide the necessary assurances about the safety of the vaccine.”
In what could be a worldwide model to follow, vaccinations in Australia will be delivered first to front-line health staff, older care employees and quarantine workers whose employment place them at greater risk of exposure and transmission.
Next, people with an elevated risk of contracting a serious case of COVID-19 due to their age or underlying health problems will be vaccinated. Finally, injections will be shifted to essential services workers, meaning those in key occupations providing services critical to societal functioning.
Once front-line health staff, high risk persons and essential service workers have been vaccinated, every member of the public, including overseas travelers, will be able to get the shot.
It is understood that COVID-19 vaccines usually require two jabs: a starter, followed by a booster several weeks later. An annual dose similar to a winter flu shot could also be necessary. For now, all we can do is wait until 2021 to see the results of the vaccination.
Featured image: Aidan Pullino/Airways