Customs urged to prioritise clearance and apply physical inspections of COVID vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine

The World Customs Organisation (WCO) Secretary-General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya has stated that COVID vaccine supply would face chain challenges – that vaccines are time and temperature-sensitive, they are high-value for which there is high demand coupled with limited supply, and the scale of the distribution is unprecedented. 

To address these challenges, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya proposed prioritizing customs clearance and applying physical inspections in only limited circumstances, ensuring the security of the supply chain, and streamlining and speeding up border processes in order to create capacity and also to enable carriers to quickly redeploy the specialized transportation equipment used.

Dr. Kunio Mikuriya stated this at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) virtual event exploring the role of WTO in the context of “COVID-19 and Vaccine Equity” with its key stakeholders last week.

Mikuriya underscored customs’ role to protect the society from the entry into the market of counterfeit, substandard, or illicit medicines, vaccines, medical supplies, and equipment and the need to implement the WCO Cross-Border E-Commerce Framework of Standards to enable customs to apply risk management on small packages in line with the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

Secretary-General Mikuriya informed participants that these points were included in the WCO Council Resolution adopted in December 2020 and based on the WCO instruments including the Revised Kyoto Convention and the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.  He further illustrated the WCO’s collaborative approach by highlighting several joint actions with international organizations and the private sector.

In the area of export and other restrictions, Dr. Mikuriya reiterated the WCO’s position, outlined in the joint statement with the WTO issued last year, calling for a more targeted, proportionate, transparent and non-discriminatory approach as the measures taken to safeguard the health and well-being of citizens during the crisis, should be temporary and rescinded once they are no longer needed. 

He also shared the recent WCO discussions on bio-secure borders for passengers to ensure the seamless flows of goods and people.

In her concluding remarks Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of WTO, appreciated the willingness of members, international organizations and businesses to work together to facilitate better vaccine production and manufacturing capacity, procurement and distribution.

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