COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out and many people who have been stuck at home since the beginning of the pandemic are eager to travel, conduct business and to see loved ones.
Countries across the globe have begun announcing “vaccine passports,” allowing their citizens to use them as proof of vaccination to travel. However, many of us are not fully aware of what these are and if we need one.
We hope to clear up the confusion about Vaccine passports, or digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination status, for you here. Here’s a glimpse of what that means for the future of travel. (Review Journal, 2021)
Although the United States hasn’t announced a plan for vaccine passports yet, several companies are developing digital vaccine certificates for smartphone apps.
Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent announcement that fully vaccinated Americans can now travel domestically without having to undergo a COVID-19 test or quarantining. This means airlines and travel industry groups may have a standardized vaccine passport that will help them navigate the changing rules as safely and efficiently as possible.
Digital Technology and Vaccines
In simple words, a vaccine passport is nothing but a digital record of an individual’s COVID-19 vaccine certification. It may be used to gain entry into different countries, institutions, venues, or other areas that require visitors to be vaccinated for gaining access.
The term “passport” is a misnomer, and it does not provide proof of citizenship, however, the name is likely to stick because it is a document you may need to present during travel.
When Will We See Vaccine Pasports?
Some versions of a vaccine passport are being used in large cities. New York state has begun using the IBM-developed app since March, which pulls from the state’s vaccine registry to confirm vaccination status to attend certain events or enter venues. (Washington Post, 2021)
IBM is also in the process of creating Digital Health Pass, as a part of its blockchain technology, which would pull data such as temperature checks, test results, vaccine status, and much more. (NY Times, 2021)
Another Swiss nonprofit The World Economic Forum and the Commons Project Foundation is also developing CommonPass, like a scannable QR code showing proof of testing or vaccination.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is also working on a travel pass initiative, which is currently being tested among 22 airlines, according to USA Today. (USA Today, 2021)
Is a Passport Similar to A Vaccination Card?
A vaccine passport is not the same as COVID-19 Vaccination Record Cards, the paper cards which we receive after getting vaccinated, issued by CDC.
Public health experts strongly recommend keeping vaccination cards handy, as it will prove your immunization status and streamline possible booster shots in the future, according to ABC News. (ABC News, 2021)
Do I Need A Vaccine Passport to Travel?
At this point, it remains to be seen how vaccine passports will be utilized by different countries and organizations in the upcoming months.
While vaccine passports may open the door to travel in the coming months, the CDC’s guidance as of now remains the same: avoid non-essential international travel until further updates.
Is It Mandated by the Government?
As of this writing, per White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s recent podcast, she stated that there will be “no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential”.
Does Everyone Agree on This?
The concept of vaccine passports has sparked debate since it started even though the Biden administration has confirmed they will not be mandated. (Healthline, 2021)
Meanwhile, some politicians are making a stance, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who has already issued an executive order banning vaccine passports in the state.
Ideally, this isn’t a brand-new concept when travelers required to show proof of vaccination against diseases such as yellow fever or cholera, providing a physical “yellow card” — known as an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis — when traveling to certain parts of the world.
The key difference is that the current vaccine passports in the works will be digital, rather than on paper, to streamline the process and reduce the risk of fraud and hassle.
People Have Concerns
Apps currently being developed are for smartphones, which poses potential issues around accessibility for older and lower-income individuals. The bottom line, experts say, is that there’s still a lot of unknowns when it comes to the future of vaccine passports.
We want assurances and certainties in a world where things have been turned upside down. Is a vaccine passport a step into the future of medicine, or as some see it, an invasion of privacy? There’s much to do to insure a level of confidence for COVID vaccine efficacy, side effects and information shared to insure public safety.
Schulz, Bailey. “Vaccine Passports Launched in Las Vegas but Privacy, Choice Still Concerns.” Journal, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 31 Mar. 2021, www.reviewjournal.com/business/casinos-gaming/vaccine-passports-launched-in-las-vegas-but-privacy-choice-still-concerns-2318935/
Dan Diamond, Lena H. Sun. “’Vaccine Passports’ Are on the Way, but Developing Them Won’t Be Easy.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 29 Mar. 2021, www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/03/28/vaccine-passports-for-work/
Welch, Ashley. “Vaccine Passports: What They Are and Why You May Need One.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 5 Apr. 2021, www.healthline.com/health-news/vaccine-passports-what-they-are-and-why-you-may-need-one-soon#Fears-and-concerns-about-the-use-of-digital-vaccine-passports
Koenig, David. “Will You Need a COVID-19 ‘Vaccine Passport’ to Travel? Here’s What They Are and How They Might Work.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 22 Mar. 2021, www.usatoday.com/story/travel/news/2021/03/22/vaccine-passport-who-covid-travel-will-you-need-one/4762495001/