Tue | Oct 19, 2021

UK vaccine snub

Inoculation status not recognised

Published:Monday | September 20, 2021 | 12:11 AMJanet Silvera and Shanna Monteith/Gleaner Writers
Errol Greene, regional director of SERHA, said his full vaccination status was not recognised by UK authorities.
Errol Greene, regional director of SERHA, said his full vaccination status was not recognised by UK authorities.
A Virgin Atlantic plane.
A Virgin Atlantic plane.
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The United Kingdom does not recognise the vaccine code for Jamaica, causing locals who are fully inoculated against COVID-19 to be designated unvaccinated on arrival in that European country. The majority of Jamaicans have been vaccinated with the...

The United Kingdom does not recognise the vaccine code for Jamaica, causing locals who are fully inoculated against COVID-19 to be designated unvaccinated on arrival in that European country.

The majority of Jamaicans have been vaccinated with the UK-developed AstraZeneca. This latest snub is a result of the island’s amber categorisation on the British traffic light list, which is expected to be simplified soon. Jamaica’s low vaccination and high positivity rates have also prompted the UK to issue a travel advisory to its citizens not to visit the island.

In addition to not recognising Jamaica’s vaccine programme, all residents travelling to the UK must follow the two-day and eight-day tests and 10-day quarantine. The information on the travel requirements is posted on the UK Foreign Office website.

The process is much smoother for British citizens returning to the UK or persons vaccinated under the English healthcare system, the National Health Service. In a nutshell, the ruling is not against AstraZeneca, says a highly placed source in the UK airline industry, but against countries whose vaccine programmes are not currently recognised.

Questions dispatched to the British High Commission and the United States Embassy were not answered up to press time.

The ruling has been causing a lot of confusion for Jamaican travellers to the UK.

One such person is regional director at the South East Region Health Authority (SERHA), Errol Greene, who got the shock of his life last month while trying to board a Virgin Atlantic flight from the United States to the UK. En route to his mother’s funeral, his travel plans were briefly interrupted with what he described as an unfortunate experience.

He was fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca earlier this year, followed the travel protocols, completing mandatory tests and applying to land in the UK as is the requirement now.

“The funeral was on the third of August. US citizens, as of August 2nd, as long as you’re fully vaccinated, you do not need to be quarantined. Being a US citizen, I proceeded to go through the United States because time was of the essence, and I wanted to get to the UK in the shortest available time, by the best route,” Greene told The Gleaner.

The SERHA regional director highlighted that unvaccinated persons must present payment receipts for three COVID tests taken prior to boarding the plane and remain in quarantine for 10 days subsequent to entering the country.

“For persons who are fully vaccinated, you need only two tests. When I reached the airport to be checked in, the flight attendant and the supervisors told me that I had a problem with my vaccination situation because the UK does not recognise any vaccine that is administered in Jamaica,” he said.

Greene, who has oversight of 10 major hospitals and 91 health centres, noted that he impressed upon the flight administrators that he was fully immunised against COVID-19, with AstraZeneca.

However, his status was still denied, resulting in him having to assume the status of an unvaccinated traveller.

And he is not alone.

Last Saturday, Kevyn Cunningham warned his followers on Twitter that he was told the same thing at the airport in Jamaica.

A British woman who also shared a voice note expressed concerns that the move was discriminatory, saying that her mom, who recently landed from Jamaica, was subjected to 10 days’ quarantine and the additional COVID-19 test.

“Actually, when she got to the airport, she was told by the airline the vaccine code for Jamaica is not recognised. Yet the vaccine she has was the same one sent down by the British,” she argued.

There is no way of getting away from the rules as UK officials said further, Greene confirmed, that persons who are not inoculated with the vaccines approved by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Japan, and a few countries in Europe would not have their status authorised.

Greene said that he was forced to redo the application to enter and to state that he was not vaccinated.

Greene, who also served as the CEO of the Kingston Public and Victoria Jubilee hospitals, is urging Jamaicans not to allow this to be a deterrent to taking the jab locally.

“I had choices, but I waited until it was available in Jamaica, and I took what was available to me at the earliest time I could have gotten it,” said the regional director.

“My sister and nephew left straight out of Jamaica and went there. They were vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson and immigration didn’t give them the type of lecture that I got. ... The airline was clear: No vaccine administered in Jamaica is admissible in the United Kingdom.”

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com