LONDON — The World Travel & Tourism Council is urging the U.S. government to prioritize approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine, in an effort to reopen the critical U.S. – UK and transatlantic markets.
The WTTC notes that while the FDA this week approved the Pfizer vaccine, it still does not currently recognize AstraZeneca as an approved COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA in the U.S. also hasn’t yet approved AstraZeneca.
The UK’s vaccination effort has been fuelled largely by the AstraZeneca vaccine.
AstraZeneca was also integral to Canada’s vaccination efforts, notably during the third wave in spring 2021, with more than 2 million Canadians getting at least one jab of AstraZeneca.
In June 2021 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – who got a mixed dose of AstraZeneca, and then Moderna – was asked about Canadians who got AstraZeneca. “We will definitely make sure that people who got two or one AstraZeneca dose will not be at a disadvantage when they want to travel,” said Trudeau.
The WTTC notes that 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 U.S.
The WTTC adds that even if the Biden Administration allows borders to reopen, the CDC’s non-recognition of AstraZeneca will be a significant barrier to transatlantic travel.
Highlighting the UK, one of the biggest international markets for the U.S. and key to the transatlantic market, especially for corporate travel, the WTTC says “America will effectively remain off-limits to the majority of Brits – and many millions more around the world – who are vaccinated with the AstraZeneca drug.”
CDC non-recognition will continue to seriously depress consumer demand and prevent any meaningful revival of transatlantic travel from the UK to the U.S., with serious knock-on effects throughout the travel and tourism sector on both sides of the Atlantic.
According to travel and data analytics cited by the WTTC, UK-U.S. flights scheduled for the last week of August are down 73% compared to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.
And total seats available over this period have dropped from a high of 287,000 in 2019 to just 78,000 in 2021.
Says Virginia Messina, WTTC Senior Vice President: “It’s crucial the U.S. authorities step forward to formally approve the AstraZeneca vaccine as a matter of urgency to enable cross-border mobility and the return of transatlantic travel between the UK and U.S.
“Unless it gives it the green light, then the U.S. will effectively remain closed to the vast majority of UK visitors and the many millions around the world who are double-jabbed with the AstraZeneca vaccine,” she adds.
“This will leave airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, hotels and the entire travel and tourism infrastructure, which depends upon transatlantic travel, in significant trouble for the foreseeable future.
“Neither the U.S. nor the UK economy can afford this ‘vaccine vacuum’ to continue a day longer, and every day which passes, and transatlantic travel remains off limits, it leaves the Travel & Tourism sector sinking deeper into the red.”
She warns that the current CDC approval process could take months to give AstraZeneca the all clear.
The U.S. is the third most popular destination for travellers in the world, according to the WTTC, and without approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine the country could be shutting itself off from
millions of inbound travellers.
The WTTC notes that this week the City of New York included AstraZeneca to its list of vaccines which would be accepted as proof of inoculation to enter many indoor venues.
WTTC says it expects other U.S states to follow New York’s lead and calls upon the U.S. government to include all WHO and FDA approved vaccines.
The WTTC is also “increasingly concerned” that more layers of complexity around vaccine requirements are increasing barriers to mobility and cross-border travel. Austria recently announced a 270-day expiry date for COVID-19 vaccine certificate.