How Will Vaccine Passports Affect Travel?

March 05, 2021

A number of countries and organizations doing the work of exploring and implementing solutions that could ease the world back toward normalcy. While mandatory testing for COVID‑19 on departure or arrival (or both) and quarantine requirements are just some of the protocols that are slowly gaining more traction. A “COVID passport” is the latest avenue being pursued now that vaccines are becoming available. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a “COVID passport”?

A vaccine passport or “COVID passport” functions as proof that you’ve received a specific vaccine and have the necessary immunity to travel. Variations on the concept already exist, notes Dr. Kumanan Wilson, a professor with the University of Ottawa’s Department of Medicine and a member of Canada’s COVID‑19 Immunity Task Force. The immunization cards required by public schools in some jurisdictions and the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) required by certain countries for diseases like yellow fever are two examples. These have traditionally been paper‑based, but there are multiple efforts underway globally to roll out a digital pass.

Why would I need a vaccine passport for travel?

The hope is a vaccine passport for COVID‑19 would allow those who are immunized to travel while minimizing the risks and spread of the disease.

A vaccine passport is also a less time‑consuming and costly alternative to airport COVID‑19 testing and quarantine requirements enforced in many jurisdictions.

More broadly, proponents of the “COVID passport” say it is a way to move toward reopening the economy and society in general.

How would a vaccine passport work?

At the most basic level, you may need to show a paper certificate that proves you have been vaccinated. It may have a QR code for easy scanning. The ultimate goal is to create a secure pass for a digital wallet or app, with encrypted signatures that could function like a boarding pass and be linked specifically to your identity.

Why is there debate over “COVID passports”?

There are various concerns about these passports, including equity and access, the ethics of requiring it and privacy and security concerns.

Internationally, estimates suggest it could be years before some of the poorest countries are fully immunized, raising issues around global vaccine distribution and the risk of widening the inequality gap.

Another key challenge will be creating a global standard, due to the different vaccines that are available as well as the different vaccine schedules being followed.

Will Canada adopt vaccine passports in the future?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously spoken out against the idea of requiring a vaccine passport on a federal level for Canadians, saying it was “fraught with challenges.”

But the reality is, if this is an international requirement, we’re going to have to figure it out.

What are other countries and organizations doing?

Numerous bilateral or trilateral vaccine passport deals are being signed, and some European countries and Israel have begun issuing or are moving to issue vaccine certificates, allowing them to bypass quarantine requirements.

There are also projects underway involving a cross‑section of industries and groups such as health facilities, airlines and airports, allowing travellers to securely and privately share their test results and vaccination status.

Some of the biggest efforts underway include the COVID‑19 Credentials Initiative, hosted by Linux Foundation Public Health; the global airline industry’s IATA Travel Pass Initiative; and CommonPassThe Commons Project – the organization behind the latter pass – is also part of the Vaccination Credential Initiative.

 

Content courtesy of enRoute