Updated 5 April 2021
With the advent of the mass vaccination program globally, the world is hoping to leap back to everyday post-COVID life soon enough.
Since the first vaccines against COVID-19 were approved around late 2020, vaccine passports have been discussed by academics, politicians, and health experts as a possible way to allow vaccinated people to move more freely.
Keep reading to know more about them and where to get the vaccine passport.
What is a vaccine passport?
A vaccine passport is proof of vaccination that may be required as a condition of entry or service. It is digital documentation that an individual has been vaccinated against a virus, in this case, COVID. Most commonly, this is considered for international travel, but certain domestic services are also discussed.
Vaccine passports provide a secure yet straightforward system that can help travelers navigate through a tangle of restrictions as smoothly as possible while protecting privacy. They can also be used for large events, like sporting fixtures and concerts, or entry to places where social distancing is hard to maintain, like theatres, nightclubs, and bars.
Not to be mistaken with ‘immunity passport,’ the so-called COVID passport is a means of verifying an individual’s COVID credentials, including their vaccination status, latest test result, and COVID recovery status for those who had earlier contracted the virus. Vaccine passport, meanwhile, may be limited to showing only COVID vaccination status.
How can I get a vaccine passport?
While there are currently no internationally recognised vaccine passports available, various groups have been working on developing these vaccine passport apps, with two of the most noteworthy examples being the Common Pass and the IATA Travel Pass.
The Commons Project, The World Economic Forum, and a broad coalition of public and private partners are collaborating to launch CommonPass, a trusted, globally interoperable platform for people to document their COVID-19 status (health declarations / PCR tests/vaccinations) and satisfy country entry requirements while protecting their health data privacy.
The CommonPass platform assesses whether the individual’s lab test results or vaccination records
- come from a trusted source, and
- satisfy the health screening requirements of the country they want to enter.
Lab results and vaccination records can be accessed through existing health data systems, national or local registries, or personal digital health records (Apple Health for iOS, CommonHealth for Android). Apple Health and CommonHealth let individuals store their health records securely and privately on their phones, entirely under their control.
In February, Qantas completed a trial run of the CommonPass Digital Health app on an international repatriation flight from Frankfurt to Darwin. Through the app, health or border officials and airline staff could quickly verify the COVID-19 test results and vaccination history of an individual.
IATA Travel Pass
IATA Travel Pass is a mobile application that helps travelers store and manage their verified certifications for COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccines. This will be important for governments that are likely to require either verified testing or vaccination proof as a condition of international travel during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IATA Travel Pass has four open and interoperable modules which together create the end-to-end solution. IATA Travel Pass incorporates;
- Global registry of health requirements – enables passengers to find accurate travel information, testing, and eventually vaccine requirements for their journey.
- Global registry of testing/vaccination centers – enables passengers to find testing centers and labs at their departure location which meet the standards for testing and vaccination requirements of their destination.
- Lab App – enables authorized labs and test centers to share test and vaccination certificates with passengers securely.
- Contactless Travel App – enables passengers to (1) create a ‘digital passport,’ (2) receive test and vaccination certificates and verify that they are sufficient for their itinerary, and (3) share testing or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel. Travelers can also use this app to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout their journey, improving the travel experience.
The IATA was first tested in cross-border pilot schemes at the end of 2020. The full launch of the app for iOS and Android systems is expected to be fully operational when governments reopen their border to international travelers.
Current status of vaccine passports worldwide:
As far as international travel is concerned, vaccine passports are the key to tourism resumption since more and more countries are opening up their borders for vaccinated travelers.
Despite the recognition of a globally acceptable vaccine passport, several countries have released their own vaccine passports and travel passes. Here is a quick look at its current status, how to apply and eligibility.
New York’s Excelsior Pass
For domestic use purposes, New Yorkers can now take advantage of the recently launched Excelsior Pass as a means of verifying their inoculation status and latest test result. Developed alongside IBM, the Excelsior Pass works through a smartphone app capable of producing a QR code affirming their eligibility.
The Excelsior Pass is online and can be used to gain entry to state-wide, large-scale venues such as Madison Square Garden, along with scores of entertainment events and wedding ceremonies, funerals, and other social events. It’s also worth noting that New Yorkers without smartphones may print the QR code and present it to the relevant authorities. The Excelsior Pass app can be acquired for Android here and iOS here.
Iceland’s Digital Vaccine Certificate
The government of Iceland has required its citizens to acquire digital vaccine certificates obtainable at this online portal. The Ministry of Health has decided that vaccination certificates that meet the Chief Epidemiologist of Iceland’s guidelines and are issued in an EEA/EFTA state will be valid at the Icelandic border. Those presenting such a certificate are exempt from official border restrictions and are therefore not obliged to undergo screening.
Iceland is now allowing all travelers into the country as long as they hold a COVID-19 vaccination certificate. The health ministry announced that if a traveler has a jab certificate issued by the European Medicines Agency or the World Health Organisation, no further checks will be needed.
Vaccine Card, UAE
The vaccine card displays complete details of your vaccination status – if you have received a COVID-19 vaccine dose, or are fully vaccinated, that is, received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and completed 28 days after the second dose.
Emiratis can now download their vaccine card on the Al Hosn app, which will act as UAE’s national COVID vaccine registry. You can also download and share your official vaccination reports in PDF format on the app via email or message. The information is presented in both English and Arabic on official letterheads. You can download the Al Hosn app on Google Play or Apple Store.
EU Covid Card
The European Union will soon propose the Covid Card aka Digital Green Certificate, in 27 member states and countries of the European Economic Area as a pivotal step in the direction of reopening international boundaries. It will consist of three documents that will testify to-
- whether the holder has gotten a vaccine and if yes, which one
- the results of a coronavirus test are taken, and
- the details on whether he has recovered from a COVID-19 infection.
The pass will cover all the different shots approved by the European Medical Agency (EMA) and those authorized for emergency use in member countries. As of late, European leaders have agreed to push ahead with plans for an EU-wide Digital Green Certificate as “a matter of urgency.” The vaccine ID, which is likely to be available by June, will be available in digital or paper format.
Denmark’s Corona Pass
Denmark was the first country in Europe to confirm it will use digital passports. Denmark plans to use its “Corona pass” vaccine passport domestically from Easter – but it could also be used later as a tool for international travel.
Denmark already has a secure digital ID system called NemID, and the Corona pass will be linked to that. NemID gives Danish citizens access to various online platforms, including a digital listing of an individual’s health records and test results.