No one knows if any countries are actually turning away travellers with mixed vaccine doses

With reports that some countries won’t accept Canadian travellers who have received mixed COVID-19 vaccine doses as fully vaccinated, the actual list of nations with such a policy is not really clear.

The most widely reported case of Canadians being “turned away” based on their mixed vaccination status was in June when a Canadian couple cancelled a honeymoon trip to the Barbados. After the negative press that ensued, the Caribbean destination quickly reversed its stance.

The couple could have still entered the country, but would have faced stringent quarantine requirements.

The Barbados Ministry of Tourism had stated that it was simply following World Health Organization standards which don’t recognize people as fully vaccinated if they did not get the same vaccine for both doses.

WHO’s Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan later clarified in a tweet that “individuals should not decide for themselves” to mix vaccines, but that “public health agencies can, based on available data.”

In Canada, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization says it’s safe to mix vaccines.

With news this week that Quebec is offering travellers a third dose of vaccine in order to comply with any country that requires two shots from the same manufacturer,  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he’s working with other countries to make sure those who do have mixed doses will be allowed to travel internationally.

“We will continue to work with our international partners to recognize that Health Canada processes are outstanding and anyone who is considered fully vaccinated in Canada is safe to travel around the world,” said Trudeau.

As the evidence grows around the effectiveness of mixed vaccinations, experts expect increased acceptance of the practice.  Canada is already joined by nations like Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Sweden for allowing people to follow up one dose of AstraZeneca with a different vaccine.

Where travellers have been seeing issues with mixed doses is cruise lines. Norwegian Cruise Line has said it won’t accept any mixed dose passengers while Princess Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line will turn away anyone who has had a vector vaccine such as AstraZeneca followed by an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna. Mixing mRNA doses, however, is okay.

Where things really get complicated for international travel is when nations won’t recognize certain vaccines such as Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Sinovax or even AstraZeneca Covishield manufactured in India. The answer may be to equip travellers with internationally-recognized vaccine passports, but progress on that front has been slow, especially in Canada.

Trudeau told reporters Wednesday that Canadians will benefit from a “simple and efficient” system that provides proof of their COVID-19 vaccine status for travel abroad, but added that it will be up to individual provinces to come up with a system for domestic travel.

“The federal government will be involved in the international level of certification, so we have a role to play to make sure that the credentials that Canadians have are going to be able to be accepted around the world but there are lots of active conversations with the provinces on what exact form that will take,” he said.

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