ISLAMABAD: The World Medical Association (WMA) has called upon states to “stop discrimination” and let in all vaccinated travellers regardless of the Covid vaccine used for their inoculation.

The Pakistan Medial Association (PMA), which had written a letter to the WMA seeking its intervention on the matter, welcomed the appeal in a statement released on Wednesday.

A large number of Pakistanis have been unable to go abroad over the last eight months because they were inoculated with Chinese and Russian vaccines while most of the countries in Europe, North America and the Middle East recognise the western ones only.

Since some countries, Saudi Arabia among them, have introduced a policy of booster shots, people inoculated with Chinese vaccines must get a jab of an American or a British vaccine to become eligible for travelling and to avoid quarantine.

On the other hand, health experts like Dr Javed Akram, the vice chan­cellor of the University of Health Sci­ences, oppose the use of more than one brand to vaccinate an individual.

In a resolution adopted at a virtual meeting of its council on Wednesday, the World Medical Association said citizens from some countries were facing problems in foreign travel because their vaccinations were not being accepted as proof of full protection.

“The Association believes this is leading to an effective discrimination against travellers who have been vaccinated. It is restricting international cooperation and business, disadvantaging mainly poorer countries and regions.

“In some cases it has led to requests from vaccinated people for a third and fourth dose. The WMA is now calling on all governments to immediately adopt fair, harmonised and non-discriminatory rules to enable safe and equal travel opportunities, and to inform the public if serious concerns about specific vaccines hinder their acceptance,” a statement said.

“The WMA understands the reluctance of pharmaceutical authorities to allow the market introduction of vaccines for which an authorisation has not been applied in their jurisdiction or which are still in the process of authorisation, or may have been reje­cted because their ethical or technical standards of testing or production do not meet the required standards.

“But it considers it necessary to evaluate Covid-19 vaccines as a reliable travel measure of protection on the basis only of their effectiveness against infection and severe illness by SARS-CoV 2. By now there are enough data to assess vaccines based on their protective effect, regardless of their marketing authorisation. Should vaccines be deemed not to be effective, and therefore not acceptable as protection, the reasons for such decision should be made public,” the WMA statement stressed.

Dr Qaisar Sajjad, the PMA’s secretary general, said his association had requested the director general of World Health Organisation (WHO) and the WMA secretary general to thrash out the problem so that people desirous of travelling abroad did not face hurdles. “In response to PMA’s request, the WMA presented a resolution in its council meeting and called for an end to Covid-19 travel discrimination,” he said.

Anti-measles campaign

As Pakistan plans to carry out the world’s biggest measles rubella (MR) campaign next month, a high-level “partners mission” is on a visit to the country these days.

The primary objective of the mission is to interact with local teams taking part in immunisation drives conducted by organisations like the WHO and Unicef.

The mission intends to review the country’s Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) and anti-polio campaigns.

It will suggest measures to make campaigns against measles rubella more effective by enlisting the education department, the private sector and by recruiting more workers, especially female vaccinators.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2021

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