Jibber jabber

Here at NewDog we try pretty hard to ensure that when we say something, it really is what we mean. Communication, particularly during pandemics, is best taken straight up, with no confusing mixers.

But inevitably, what starts out simply can end up evolving into something more and this week’s candidate is the vaccination. 

This time last year,  a Covid-19 vaccination was the answer to all our dreams. The key to the end of death and suffering and the resumption of regular life. When news of them started to come out, rejoicing abounded. And the stock market perked right up, which is always a good sign. 

Now, in the West, it’s all about how to persuade the stragglers to get vaccinated, be that through free guns (the US), access to restaurants (France) or dithering around nightclubs (England, circa your Dad trying to remember what the Young People did after dark). Other parts of the world are less lucky and the hope is that a collective response to the pandemic really will be collective before too long. 

The hope was that once a decent chunk of the population was vaccinated, then global travel would reopen, but it hasn’t gone that way. First off, governments would only recognise those vaccinated within their own shores. Now, it’s about what brand. 

This week saw the World Travel & Tourism Council call upon the US government to urgently speed up approval of the UK’s AstraZeneca vaccine to help restore transatlantic travel. The Centre for Disease Control this week approved the Pfizer vaccine, however it still does not currently recognise AstraZeneca as an approved Covid-19 vaccine.

AstraZeneca has the largest global reach of all current vaccines and has currently been administered across 176 countries and territories, highlighting the importance of its approval in the US. The WTTC said CDC non-recognition would continue to “seriously depress consumer demand and prevent any meaningful revival of transatlantic travel from the UK to the US”.

In addition, the WTTC has grown increasingly concerned that more layers of complexity around vaccine requirements are increasing barriers to mobility and cross-border travel, with Austria recently announcing a 270-day expiry date for Covid-19 vaccine certificate.

We’re not here to talk about how the AstraZeneca vaccine works or why the US is reluctant to approve it. That’s science beyond our pay grade. There has been no suggestion of any political motivation around it, it is merely, well, a huge barrier to travel. 

Where there has been more indication of political motivation its the cost of hugely expensive and unnecessary PCR tests for fully vaccinated citizens seeking to travel in and out of the UK, which the CMA is currently investigating. Regular listeners to our podcast will know that the cost of tests is enough to account for multiple trips all over again and is getting, frankly, beyond very silly indeed. Rules over quarantining which mean that fully-vaccinated travellers end up with their faces pressed against their windows while the unvaccinated frolic in the street is not the way to make friends and gain repeat guests.

It feels like the pandemic is coming to an end, or at least entering a phase where travel returns. Again, this scribbler has almost no science beyond GCSE level and that was very much of the ‘trajectory of ink on the back of Physics teacher’s lab coat’ end of the market. Assuming no vaccine-proof deviants, now would seem to be the time for cautious return to travel and that is being borne out in the airports and train stations across mainland Europe. 

What is needed now is for governments to start thinking about how to bring travel back. They’ve noticed that it hits GDP when people can’t meet up and that, more, it seems, than issues around reuniting families, will be a motivator. This doesn’t mean being forced to recognise vaccines they don’t like, but it does mean standardising access. The UK’s psychotic traffic light system is a great example of how not to do it, when even the airlines can’t keep up with who needs to do and show what at which point. Recognised tests, recognised timescales for them and recognised methods of proof will ease the way. 

Then we can embrace that early hope and work on spreading it globally. 

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