The U.K.’s refusal to recognize Covid-19 vaccines administered in most parts of the world is drawing further criticism over the mistrust of other countries and a reluctance to work internationally to end the pandemic.
One upshot of the policy is that a person in Africa who received a vaccine distributed by the U.K. won’t be recognized as inoculated by the donor country. Another is that visitors who got an AstraZeneca Plc or Pfizer Inc. dose, used liberally in Britain, won’t be classified as vaccinated if they went for their shot in dozens of other nations.
“If you send us vaccines and we use those vaccines, and you say you don’t recognize people that have been immunized, it sends a very challenging message for us,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Thursday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
“It’s a message that creates confusion within our own population and a message that doesn’t really speak to solidarity and cooperation,” he said.
Nkengasong’s comments add to mounting criticism of the U.K.’s latest border policy, which forces visitors to quarantine if they weren’t vaccinated in the U.S., European Union and a handful of other countries. The move has been branded discriminatory and undermining the global push to roll out vaccines to developing countries.
“We are not talking about the quality of the vaccine administered, it’s about trust in health-care systems to generate proof of vaccination,” said Richard Mihigo, head of immunization and vaccine development at the World Health Organization in Africa. “We need to see globally a digital certificate recognized by all countries and difficult to falsify.”
The U.S. said this week that foreigners will shortly be welcome from any country if they are fully inoculated, as long as it’s a dose authorized by the WHO. That includes versions not used in that country and administered elsewhere.
“We have always said we would take a phased approach to the rollout of our inbound vaccination program to other countries and territories,” a U.K. government spokesperson said Wednesday. “We will review the policy and consider any additions every three weeks.”
African countries in particular lag far behind richer nations in vaccinations, with only about 2% of the 6 billion global doses administered on the continent. The WHO has set a deadline for countries to vaccinate 10% of their population by the end of September, but only about 20% of African countries ware expected to meet that target.
“We completely don’t understand why the U.K. has taken this position,” Nkengasong said.
© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.