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Updated 6 April 2021

While the idea of ‘vaccine passports’ has been the subject of controversy as of late, with proponents and opponents dishing out arguments for both camps, the age of the vaccine passport is inevitably at hand. 

To separate facts from hearsay and provide you with a definitive picture of the current situation, let us take a look at what’s factually required at this time and what is likely to happen in the immediate future. 

Vaccine passport definition


A vaccine passport is a means of verifying an individual’s COVID credentials which include their vaccination status, latest test result, and COVID recovery status for those who had contracted the virus. Vaccine passport, meanwhile, may be limited to showing only COVID vaccination status.

Some have argued that referring to the COVID vaccination credentials as ‘passports’ is somewhat of a misnomer. Although the term may likely stick, the actual function of the numerous planned vaccination apps is to provide digital certifications for COVID vaccination. 


Is vaccine passport mandatory?

The short answer would be; we don’t know yet. We may, however, be able to draw some reasonable and educated conclusions based on what we do know so far and by examining the available trends.

So far, some potential benefits and risks have been identified but in the absence of a clear and definitive international standard on what constitutes a vaccine passport,

the question of whether or not vaccine passports should become mandatory remains open.  


What we know so far


We do know that the state of New York has recently launched the Excelsior Pass as a means for New Yorkers to verify their inoculation status and latest test results. Those looking to gain entry to participating venues must be able to confirm their vaccination status. Major venues such as Madison Square Garden and Times Union Center have announced that they will be implementing the pass in the coming weeks, as do smaller arts, entertainment and event venues.    

However, the US government has confirmed that there won’t be a centralized, universal federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential. 

In the UK, it’s been reported that Downing Street is considering modifying the NHS app to be able to serve as a vaccine passport and allow people to utilize their mobile phones as proof of vaccination and negative test status.

If implemented, said vaccination credentials would allow Brits to be admitted to places where people amass and in close proximity to one another. Places such as football stadiums, theaters, pubs, museums and so on would then be able to reopen and permitted to resume operations. 

However, the UK government has stated that there are some settings where vaccine passports will never be required which includes essential shops and public services, and public transport. Additionally, those with valid reasons to not take the vaccination will be exempted. 


Do I need vaccinations to travel?

While that largely depends on where you are and where you’re travelling to, pertaining to international travel vaccine passports are viewed as the key to the resumption of tourism since more and more countries are opening up their borders for vaccinated travellers.

In the case of the United States, arriving travellers will not be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, regardless of whether they are residents or visitors. 

Those leaving the country will also not be required to get tested provided they have taken the COVID jabs unless the destination country requires it. They are also allowed to travel domestically without the need for testing or self-quarantine.

The UK is currently under lockdown and it is illegal for anyone to travel internationally for non-essential purposes. However, the lockdown will be lifted soon and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that a vaccine passport system serving as a tool to help cross border travel and large events return safely “will definitely be necessary.”  

As for the European Union (EU), the Digital Green Certificate has been proposed to serve as proof that an individual has indeed been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from COVID-19, and will enable EU residents to move freely within EU countries.

Organizations such as IATA (International Air Transport Association) and WEE (World Economic Forum) are developing apps such as the Travel Pass and the CommonPass App to allow passengers to safely navigate international travel. Scores of airlines have been confirmed to have adopted these COVID pass apps and it’s becoming increasingly likely that vaccine passports will become the norm in a post-pandemic reality.