With at least 188 countries rolling out vaccination programs against Covid-19, some countries have issued or are actively considering implementing a vaccine passport system to help open up international and domestic travel. In the United States, although states have been divided over the ethicality of vaccine passports, some states have already adopted the system, hoping that it might contain any further spread of the virus.
But what is a vaccine passport?
A vaccine passport is a document or a credential that proves that you were vaccinated for Covid-19 or that you tested negative for the virus. It could be a piece of paper or an online document issued by the state health authorities. States that endorse the idea of vaccine passports argue that vaccine passports can ensure that the virus doesn’t trot the globe again and also serve as digital vaccination records across countries. Even at the domestic level, vaccine passports facilitate the safe use of public spaces. It must be noted here that this system is modeled around the existing proof of vaccination model that several countries, including the US, already have in place. Travelers from African countries have always been asked to submit proof of vaccination against yellow fever before entering some countries.
So, how do vaccine passports work?
Getting vaccine passports done is a quick four-step process that first requires you to download the vaccine passport app on your mobile phone. Create a personal account with your biometric data, which may include fingerprints or face scans. Once you upload the dates of vaccination or your negative Covid test results, you’re all set to scan the passport QR code at public spaces and travel checkpoints. You won’t need to upload your Covid test result if you have already been immunized.
Producing a vaccine passport could help you avoid quarantine when you cross borders to another state within the US or another country.
Who issues vaccine passports?
The White House press secretary Jen Psaki recently told reporters at a briefing that the US government “will not support a system that requires Americans to carry a credential”. The implementation of such vaccine passport systems will be deferred to private companies instead.
Who stands to gain from vaccine passports?
The travel restrictions that were imposed across the world due to Covid-19 took a heavy toll on the travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors of the economy. With vaccine passports in place, domestic and international travelers are likely to feel safe and resume their travel plans.
What are the risks associated with vaccine passports?
According to the World Health Organization, instituting proof of vaccination requirements might be a premature move considering that the efficacy of vaccinations is still unknown. Besides, making vaccine passports mandatory could lead to vaccine shortfall and put priority populations at high risk of severe Covid-19 disease.
Several experts have also raised privacy concerns as service providers would access these documents in digital format to check for proof of vaccination, and authorities may use the data to track holders.
Which states have pledged support or recorded opposition to the system so far?