Health provider prepares to administer vaccine
Health provider prepares to administer vaccine

When Dorian Angol* found out that Anguilla had reopened its borders in early July for only vaccinated travelers, he rushed to the Roseau Health Centre to take his first jab so that he could reunite with his partner he hadn't seen in over a year.

A month and a half later he was fully vaccinated and three weeks afterward made his way to the neighbouring Caribbean island. But as soon as he got to the country, he was told that he would not be able to enter as he had taken the Sinopharm vaccine, which was not on the countries approved list of vaccination.

As a result, Angol had to choose whether he would return to Dominica or spend a month and a half in the neighbouring island of St Martin and take one of the four vaccines approved for entry by Anguilla's health authorities: Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

"Ultimately I ended up staying with a friend in St Martin and I had to take the AstraZeneca and wait until I was once again considered fully vaccinated before I could enter Anguilla," he told the Sun.

With the resumption of global travel, some people are discovering that their choice of vaccine is determining where they're allowed to go.

Currently, all countries recognize proof of vaccination with one of the vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which are Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson. However, the case is not the same with other vaccines, such as Sinovac and Sinopharm which many Dominicans have taken.

"I tried booking a flight to the UK last month and realized that I could not enter because I had taken the Chinese vaccine," one Dominica who does frequent business in the United Kingdom told the Sun. "I felt it was completely discriminatory because this vaccine has been approved by the WHO (World Health Organization) but at the end of the day there was nothing I could do about it."

It's only last week that the UK government announced that all vaccines on the World Health Organization's Emergency Use Listing will be recognised from 4 am on 22 November.

This will extend England's list of approved vaccines to include Sinovac, Sinopharm Beijing, and Covaxin on top of the other vaccines already recognised.

On Sept. 20, the White House announced the United States would lift travel restrictions on air travelers from 33 countries including China, India, Brazil, and most of Europe who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Though at the time it did not list the Chinese vaccines, the United States has since updated the last and included them.

Globally, millions have received Sinopharm, Sinovac, and other vaccines manufactured in China, but concern over their efficacy has resulted in many countries- even some in the Caribbean- not recognizing them for travel.

To circumvent restrictions, some who are fully vaccinated with the Chinese vaccines are stepping forward and receiving additional doses of different vaccines that are more widely accepted around the world.

Mr. Engel Lander, who frequently travels to the US for business and pleasure, received his second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine earlier this year. Last month he then got two shots of the Pfizer which he says he wished he had waited for.

"I took the first one because at the time I didn't know better but in speaking to my children they told me that was the wrong one and I should have waited for the Pfizer which is the US one," the elderly gentlemen told the Sun. "As the world is opening up I don't want to be stuck in Dominica or have to quarantine if I do want to travel simply because {I} took the Sinopharm. I don't want to be treated like an unvaccinated,"

He, however, has admitted to getting severe side effects after his second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and says that he has been informed by his doctor that it could be an adverse reaction to the high level of antibodies in his body, caused by mixing different vaccines in a short space of time.

Though The SUN made attempts made to get the actual number of citizens who have taken the Sinopharm vaccines locally have proved futile, studies have shown that out of the eight vaccines that account for the vast majority of COVID-19 vaccines delivered globally, China's CoronaVac and Sinopharm jabs account for nearly half of all doses. In March 2021, China donated 20,000 doses of Sinopharm to Dominica.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on countries to recognize all their approved vaccines to avoid developing discriminatory travel systems.

"Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the reopening of travel into and with that region would effectively create a two-tier system, further widening the global vaccine divide and exacerbating the inequities we have already seen in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines," a joint statement from the WHO, the Global Vaccines Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and UNICEF warned.

China's CoronaVac and Sinopharm vaccines account for almost half of the 7.3 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered globally and have been enormously important in fighting the pandemic, particularly in less wealthy nations.