With vaccine passports, many are confused about how its practice will affect an individual’s safety and the future of the travel industry.
As more people around the world line up to receive their vaccines, we are all beginning to feel the itch for normalcy. To be able to walk outside without a mask, meet new people without the fear of getting sick, and most importantly, when we will be allowed to travel again. With travel restrictions still in full effect in certain places, some are opening up to travelers with vaccine documentation. A “Vaccine Passport,” as it’s been recently called, is a digital verification in the form of a QR code which proves someone has been vaccinated or recently tested negative.
China was the first country to unveil its new QR-based vaccine passport app, Denmark followed soon after. Japan announced its plans to release its own digital passport within the coming weeks, while Sweden will go live this summer. The European Union announced its strategy to create a “digital green certificate” system which will act as a document for entry into the 27 member states of the EU.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has officially stated that fully vaccinated people can travel freely within the country without getting tested. The United States government, however, has yet to formally announce plans for a digital passport. New York is the only state in the country working with a private company to develop its own vaccination app.
There is confusion regarding what vaccination and immunization documents mean for the future of travel, while many vaccinated people are growing antsy to hop on a plane and fly to the nearest tropical beach. Lucky for them, that reality is right around the corner. The International Air Transport Association announced plans to launch a digital passport during 2021 to allow vaccinated passengers to fly easier.
Many airlines are already preparing for the increase in ticket sales, as almost all airlines have lifted their seating blocks. Delta Airlines remains the only major U.S. airline that continues to block their middle seat. All other airlines lifted their blocks in early January 2021. Yet, Delta has extended through the end of April, citing passenger ease as their main reason. The airline claims that passengers don’t feel comfortable flying shoulder to shoulder with someone, especially during a global pandemic. Other airlines, however, haven’t run into the same problem with their customer bases. In fact, many report an exponential spike in revenue as 2021 shows promising signs of restriction liftings.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned people of the dangers of relying too heavily on the vaccination passport’s legitimacy. WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris states,
“We as WHO are saying at this stage we would not like to see the vaccination passport as a requirement for entry or exit because we are not certain at this stage that the vaccine prevents transmission.”
Controversy continues to grow surrounding vaccine passports, with many growing skeptical of their personal health information’s safety. App developers have to adhere to international laws regarding a patient’s right to privacy. Companies need to find a way to prove that a person has been vaccinated without giving away any other personal health information. All information must be securely encrypted to avoid data exploitation and hackers trying to steal data.
Others worry that the use of digitalized documentation might create a “second-class citizen” out of those who cannot/ have not received the vaccine or people who do not own a smartphone. Once these passports become the new norm, businesses will require proof of vaccine documentation. Some worry that these will exclude people from the everyday life that once was.
Many individuals have gotten caught fabricating or stealing vaccination documents to forge them for themselves, family, or friends. While these actions carry federal charges, the move from paper to digital documentation allows for an easier way to detect fake immunization cards.
As of April 2021, the countries open for vaccinated travelers are: