Role of Vaccine for Travel Post-Pandemic

Background of Vaccination program

The year 2020 had been a smooth-ride for active travellers across the world until a virus Tsunami took the world by storm. The Novel Coronavirus, or more popularly the COVID-19, whose traces were first discovered in the quaint town of Wuhan in China, will go on to consume millions of lives, destroy livelihoods clinically and shatter an already fragile global economy.  By March 2020, almost half of the world went into lockdown to contain the menacing pandemic which was spreading its ugly tentacles over the world with full vigour. The first wave of the pandemic that began around March 2020 left the whole world baffled and clueless. And those who actually survived and considered themselves lucky still lived in a perpetual fear of uncertainties and complexities.

Role of Vaccine for Travel

The medical world huddled together and made a strong point that only vaccination can save the world from collateral damage, and, rightly so, renowned firms made rapid strides in producing vaccines though with less success in the beginning. Clinical trials later were beginning to show increased efficacy levels without compromising on health safety. Counties including the US, the UK, France, Canada, Russia, Brazil, India and China were among the first to create vaccines, with the respective governments granting vaccine approval for emergency use and mass vaccination drive first for people aged 60, and then between the age brackets of 45-60 and finally 18-45. This was intended to prevent an impending second wave due to multiple virus mutations at different levels. As a result, many variants of the COVID-19 occurred such as the Brazil variant, the UK variant and the more lethal Indian or Delta variant.

The need to vaccinate for travel

The need to vaccinate the entire world population was never felt more important than the beginning of 2021 when a massive second wave startled an already fragile health infrastructure especially in developing countries with a huge population. India exported vaccines, and extended support to those countries which were already under the impact of the second wave in the beginning only to find itself struggling to vaccinate its own population that was queuing everywhere for taking at least the first vaccine dose. Nothing went right for India, which exhausted its vaccine production through exports, leaving its people run from pillar to post for vaccine jabs. The massive increase in COVID cases in India knelt a deadly blow to the business operations, with successive lockdowns considered the only way to curb the rapid virus spread. But the second wave surprised one and all when it penetrated rural India ripping life apart. Such was its deadly effect that hospitals suffered from a massive shortage of oxygen and supply of life-saving drugs for emergency.

All said and done creating a vaccine in less than a year, as planned, is no minor feat. Whilst the pandemic pushed mask-wearing and following physical distancing mandatory in public spaces, it ensured that global cooperation of vaccine research and distribution is the only way forward to prevent a likely cataclysm. While the above discussion threw some light on the background of the development of COVID vaccines, it must be noted that travel is the most highly affected sector with no respite whatsoever starting from the first wave of the pandemic to the time of writing this article.

Affordable Vaccination Policy

The travel & tourism sector failed to stage a comeback because even though one is fully vaccinated to travel, wearing masks, following social distancing norms, proper sanitation and strict lockdowns are the only means of breaking the chain and preventing the furtherance of the pandemic. The UK, the US, New Zealand and Canada among others were successfully able to break the shackles through a combination of all the aforementioned measures.

There has been a huge hue and cry for affordable vaccines and their uniform distribution accessible to the general public at all levels. Some countries, including India, more recently, have even advocated ‘free vaccine policy’ at government aided hospitals and health centres and supply of vaccines at subsidized rates at private hospitals. This can be a big breakthrough for travel operations to resume, at least domestic travel in the immediate future. But will this be able to alleviate the fear factor engulfing people and hampering travel altogether? India by all means has a long way to go in terms of vaccinating its entire population, but what is really needed is a change of mindset to travel with caution.

Changing user behaviour towards travel

Also, the tourism department can incentivize fully vaccinated people who travel, as a means of motivating them. Many restaurants around the world are now offering free drinks and meals for those who are fully vaccinated to lift their spirits up. There are some hotels that even provide discount offers and free stays for fully vaccinated stayers. Having said this travel, as such, is something driven by self-motivation and an inner desire. A well-executed vaccination strategy can open up inter-state travel first which now requires furnishing an emergency pass to travel between states. This requires a planned effort on the part of the various state governments to access the growing number of daily COVID cases and allow travel guided by the recommendations of the medical board.

Breaking the myths associated with vaccination

When it comes to travelling overseas, still a distant possibility under these circumstances, several boarding protocols to help travellers such as getting tested for COVID-19, social distancing at the boarding point and reaching the airport several hours before take-off time can be relaxed a bit. Again when it comes to the adoption of vaccines, people should be willingly complying, with the rumours of the vaccines rushed through before clinical trials are doing the rounds on social media. There is hesitancy without doubt and the government should come forward to ward off the fears associated with the usage of COVID vaccines. Make transparency the key to framing the vaccination process and debunking the various myths and misinformation that break the public's trust.

To conclude

As more and more countries are gradually coming out of the second wave, governments can allow travel operation to build up slowly in phases and measure the impact to understand how it can effectively work towards restoration of normalcy, though that’s a long road ahead. And if you’re a travel agency or tour operator, the wait for the skies to open up and see light at the end of the tunnel is not over yet.  

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