Photo by Lukas via Unsplash

Vaccine passports have made headlines in recent months as travel restrictions ease up and some countries progress toward normalcy.

An immunity passport is meant to show proof of vaccination against the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, having a vaccine passport in digital form allows for easy access, allowing people to find all the relevant information pertaining to the vaccine in one place. 

For some destinations and travel providers, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will be a new requirement for entry. Countries such as the U.S., France, Thailand and Lebanon will require travellers to have the vaccine before entry.

Countries that are currently using or planning to use digital COVID-19 vaccine passports include Denmark, Estonia, the EU, Israel, Japan, Panama, Singapore and Thailand. 

Denmark launched Coronapas, a vaccine passport that can be accessed by app or paper to show if a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19. In Estonia, the government announced VaccineGuard on April 30. 

Currently, the EU plans on launching a vaccine passport called the Digital Green Certificate as a way of opening up travel between member states. Countries not within the EU such as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein will also use the Digital Green Certificate. However, it is still unknown whether the U.K. will adopt it. Additionally, it is still unclear of how the EU will verify vaccination against COVID-19 in Americans. 

In the U.S., decisions on whether or not to adopt a vaccine passport let alone a digital one has been muddy. In March, the Biden administration announced that there would be no federal mandate to establish a vaccine passport for travel

Therefore, states will be the ones to decide whether or not to adopt a vaccine passport. States such as Florida, Texas and Alabama have decided to ban vaccine passports. The only states to have implemented the vaccine passport are New York and Hawaii. 

In a press statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he said that “New York State is proud to have been the first-in-the-nation to offer this simple, secure, and voluntary solution to fast-track the State’s safe and smart reopening, and are enthusiastic about additional U.S. States following suit.”

Vaccine records remain controversial in terms of how secure third-party apps are in communicating with health databases. Additionally, vaccine passports raise concerns about inequality as they can only be accessed via smartphones. The World Health Organization echoes similar concerns “given the limited (although growing) evidence about the performance of vaccines in reducing transmission and the persistent inequity in the global vaccine distribution.”

Currently in the U.S., the main proof of vaccination is the physical, white card provided by the CDC after one receives their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Airlines are in favor of digital vaccine passports that can be easily scanned from a traveler’s smartphone, as they don’t want another piece of information to check manually. 

As for who makes vaccine passports, there are many. For example, IBM developed the New York’s digital vaccine passport service known as Excelsior’s Pass. The app uses blockchain to communicate with health providers and state vaccination records. Another digital health passport is the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which encompasses nearly 300 airlines worldwide. Singapore began using this platform in May.

Scriberr News reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but declined to comment.

Written ByVivian Kwang

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