In the near future, travel may require digital documentation showing that passengers have been vaccinated or tested for the coronavirus. Answers to your questions.
Among governments and those in the travel industry, a new term has entered the vocabulary: vaccine passport.
One of President Biden’s executive orders aimed at curbing the pandemic asks government agencies to “assess the feasibility” of linking coronavirus vaccine certificates with other vaccination documents, and producing digital versions of them.
Denmark’s government said on Wednesday that in the next three to four months, it will roll out a digital passport that will allow citizens to show they have been vaccinated.
It isn’t just governments that are suggesting vaccine passports. In a few weeks, Etihad Airways and Emirates will start using a digital travel pass, developed by the International Air Transport Association, to help passengers manage their travel plans and provide airlines and governments documentation that they have been vaccinated or tested for Covid-19.
The challenge right now is creating a document or app that is accepted around the world, that protects privacy and is accessible to people regardless of their wealth or access to smartphones.
Here’s what we know about the current status of digital vaccine passports.
What is a vaccine pass or passport?
A vaccination pass or passport is documentation proving that you have been vaccinated against Covid-19. Some versions will also allow people to show that they have tested negative for the virus, and therefore can more easily travel. The versions being worked on now by airlines, industry groups, nonprofits and technology companies will be something you can pull up on your mobile phone as an app or part of your digital wallet.
“It’s about trying to digitize a process that happens now and make it into something that allows for more harmony and ease, making it easier for people to travel between countries without having to pull out different papers for different countries and different documents at different checkpoints,” said Nick Careen, senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo and security at I.A.T.A. Mr. Careen has been leading I.A.T.A.’s travel pass initiative.
I.A.T.A. is one of several organizations that have been working on digital solutions to streamline the travel credentialing process for years; during the pandemic, these groups have focused on including vaccination status. The idea is that if you have all the pertinent information on your phone, a significant amount of time will be saved.
In addition to I.A.T.A., IBM has been developing its own Digital Health Pass that would enable individuals to present proof of vaccination or a negative test to gain access to a public location, such as a sports stadium, airplane, university or workplace. The pass, built on IBM’s blockchain technology, can utilize multiple data types, including temperature checks, virus exposure notifications, test results and vaccine status. The World Economic Forum and the Commons Project Foundation, a Swiss nonprofit group, have been testing a digital health passport called CommonPass, which would allow travelers to access testing or vaccination information. The pass would generate a QR code that could be shown to authorities.