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The World Health Organisation has warned that those who have taken the COVID-19 vaccine should still be subject to quarantine rules when travelling due to a lack of evidence that vaccines prevent people from transmitting the virus. 

Chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said that the agency had not established whether COVID-19 vaccines prevent people from getting the virus and passing it to others.

“At the moment I don’t believe we have the evidence of any of the vaccines to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from actually getting the infection and therefore being able to pass it on,” she said.

Swaminathan was responding to a question about whether vaccinated people should still be required to quarantine when travelling to countries with lower transmission rates.

She replied, “I think until we know more, we need to assume that people who have been vaccinated also need to take the same precautions until there is a certain level of herd immunity that’s been built in the population.”

Vaccine researchers in the US hope to determine whether vaccines can stop the virus spreading from person to person, or whether they simply prevent individuals from getting sick.

The answer would likely have a huge impact on the course of the pandemic because if vaccines prevented transmission, it would reduce the risk of asymptomatic carriers of the virus passing it onto others.

Chief Medical Officer Tal Zaks of Moderna, one of the companies whose vaccine is awaiting final regulatory approval, said last month he believes it is likely that the vaccine will prevent transmission, but warned that there was not yet “sufficient evidence” that was the case.

“I think it’s important that we don’t change behaviour solely on the basis of vaccination.”

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