What Are Vaccine Passports—And How Would They Work?

What Are Vaccine Passports—And How Would They Work?

The COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out slowly but surely, with President Joe Biden estimating that all adults in the U.S. will have access to a dose by the end of May.

But as we continue the long march toward herd immunity, or the tipping point when enough people are inoculated to halt community spread of the virus, there is a growing question about whether proof of vaccination will soon be required to get back to daily activities like eating in restaurants, flying on planes, or traveling abroad.

The travel industry—and airlines especially—are lobbying for a standardization of health forms like vaccine status and COVID-19 test results.

“It is crucial to establish uniform guidance,” more than two dozen airline trade organizations, labor unions, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote in a letter to the White House on Monday, according to the AP. The groups stated that “the U.S. must be a leader in this development.”

Many airlines have already attempted to standardize test results among their own passengers, turning to technology by partnering with apps like Common Pass, VeriFly, or Travel Pass from the International Air Transportation Association. These types of apps can also be adapted to show vaccine status as well, and several airlines such as Qantas and Virgin Atlantic have voiced support for requiring all passengers to be vaccinated in order to board their planes.

Earlier this month, President Biden asked federal agencies to explore options for so-called vaccine passports. But it’s not yet clear if or when the documents will become a requirement for travel.

“I think it’s likely that countries are going to ask for some proof of vaccination prior to admitting travelers,” says Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Whether it will happen in sort of an official or coordinated way remains to be seen.”

Here’s what vaccine passports might look like in the U.S. and what travelers need to know.

How will it all work?

While there is no official plan yet for the immunity passports in the U.S., other countries with either active vaccine passports or imminent plans to enact them might serve as a model. Israel, for instance, became the first country to implement the concept in late February with its “Green Badge” system. Fully vaccinated Israeli residents have access to activities like sporting events, concerts, swimming pools, and restaurants, as long as they present their vaccination certificate with a QR code.

Denmark and Sweden have also announced plans to have vaccine passports in place by the summer, while the European Union has proposed a “Digital Green Pass” that would allow inoculated residents to travel more freely between its member countries. The E.U.’s plan would also take into account testing and statements of recovery to avoid discriminating against citizens without vaccine access.

What Vaccinated Travelers Need to Know Before Planning a Trip

What Fully Vaccinated Travelers Need to Know Before Planning a Trip

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Similarly, travel industry voices would also like the U.S. to rely on a combination of vaccinations, tests, and statements of recovery in its potential plan. In their letter to the White House, the airline groups requested as much, noting that vaccination should not be a requirement for domestic or international travel, the AP reports. Furthermore, the groups also asked for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take “a leading role” in developing the tech, “believing that would increase certainty that information in the credentials is legitimate.”

The legitimacy of the documents is an important hurdle to clear. “There’s a pragmatic concern about vaccine passports, which is that if you’re particularly dealing with a situation where there are severe shortages as there are now, you have to worry about the potential for fraud and whether we will see forged certificates,” Nuzzo says.

Published at Thu, 11 Mar 2021 19:43:39 +0000