You’ve probably heard a lot about vaccine passports this year: what they are, who’s making them and where you may be able to travel with one.
That’s because a COVID-19 vaccine will be a new entry requirement for some destinations and travel providers, while others will use proof of vaccination to allow travelers to skip COVID-19 tests and mandatory quarantines.
Because vaccine passports will streamline the travel experience, they’re being seen as a crucial component of restarting the industry after the pandemic. But which countries are using (or plan to use) digital vaccine passports? And which countries aren’t? Here’s what you need to know.
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The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April said vaccine passports would “create huge inequities and will further exacerbate them,” according to the Associated Press.
According to a report by the World Health Organization, less than 2% of the world’s vaccine supply has been delivered to Africa. In contrast, nearly 80% of the world’s vaccines have been administered in North America and Europe. Just 45 countries on the African continent have received vaccines, 43 of them have begun vaccinations and nearly 13 million of the 31.6 million doses delivered so far have been administered.
“We are already in a situation where we don’t have vaccines, and it will be extremely unfortunate that countries impose a travel requirement of immunization certificates whereas the rest of the world has not had the chance to have access to vaccines,” said Dr. John Nkengasong.
Denmark launched a vaccine passport for its citizens called Coronapas. The pass, which is available through an app or by paper, can be used to show that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to the Coronapas website, travelers can see their pass once their COVID-19 test has been analyzed by a lab. Travelers can only see their passports if their test result is negative and is not older than seven days.
The Estonian government announced on April 30 a vaccine passport called VaccineGuard.
It is expected to comply with the European Union’s Digital Green Certificate and will allow Estonians to cross borders with proof of vaccination status
“As one of the most digitally advanced nations in the world, we are very excited to offer our citizens a trustworthy COVID-19 vaccine certificate, providing another major step on our road back to normality,” said Estonia President Kersti Kaljulaid in a statement.
“Online-only meetings are not enough to ensure true connectivity, people also need the freedom to travel for both business and leisure,” she continued.
There’s big news for travelers: The European Union is reportedly planning to reopen to fully vaccinated American tourists this summer.
While details are still scant, it’s an encouraging sign for Americans who are eager to venture abroad and return to some of their favorite destinations in Europe.
All eyes are on the EU’s upcoming Digital Green Certificate, which will allow citizens of EU member states to move freely around their own country and travel abroad to other countries within the EU.
The Green Certificate will be available for free in digital (with QR code) or paper format. Non-EU member states, such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, will also use the Green Certificate — but not the United Kingdom. It’s unclear, at least right now, what the EU will use to verify American COVID-19 vaccine credentials.
Israel leads every country in the world — except Gibraltar — in vaccinating its citizens against COVID-19. According to a Johns Hopkins University tracker, more than 55% of Israelis have been fully vaccinated.
Fully vaccinated Israelis can access venues such as concerts and restaurants using the country’s Green Pass system. Only Israelis who have been vaccinated can use a Green Pass, but people who have received a second dose can apply for a vaccination certificate, which is an official document.
A certificate of recovery is given to people who have recovered from the virus and is valid until June 30, 2021. Israel is still closed to foreigners until May 23, and it appears that the Green Pass is only available to Israeli citizens for now. However, the country is also undergoing conversations to establish a vaccine certification for travelers, which would remove the need for a passenger to take a test on arrival.
Japan plans to roll out a vaccine passport using a smartphone app to make international travel easier for people who have been immunized, according to the Japan Times. The app will also hold COVID-19 test results, according to reports.
“Other countries are doing it, so Japan will have to consider it too,” said Japan’s Minister of Defense, Taro Kono.
Panama and its national airline, Copa Airlines, are partnering with the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s Travel Pass.
Travelers will be able to create a “digital passport” that will allow passengers to verify that their travel itineraries match the COVID-19 requirements of their destination. The Travel Pass will also include where to find testing and vaccination centers.
Like Panama, Singapore is partnering with IATA Travel Pass to reopen its economy. Singapore will soon accept pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test results on the app.
Singapore-bound travelers can now use the Travel Pass to share their pre-departure COVID-19 test results upon check-in with their airline, according to IATA. They can also share this information at immigration checkpoints upon arrival at Singapore International (SIN). However, there’s been no word on whether (or when) Singapore will accept COVID-19 vaccine documents from foreigners.
Tourism is one of Thailand’s largest gross domestic product drivers (GDP), and preventative measures against COVID-19 resulted in a massive blow to the industry. The country hopes to remedy some of the pandemic’s damage by making it easier for tourists to visit.
Foreign tourists traveling to Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga, Chiang Mai and Pattaya will be permitted to enter if they have a vaccination certificate and quarantine for seven days in a hotel.
Starting July 1, foreign tourists arriving in Phuket who’ve received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will not be required to quarantine for seven days. Starting Oct. 1, travelers arriving in the five aforementioned pilot areas will not have to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated.
No Universal U.s. vACCINE pASSPORT
While some countries have supported the idea of vaccine passports, the U.S. federal government doesn’t seem too keen on wading into the controversy.
The Biden administration said there would be no federal mandate for vaccine passports in late March. It also said there were no plans for a vaccine database.
“The government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of citizens. We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do,” said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
That means states will essentially decide whether they want to roll out vaccine passports — or not. Several states, including Florida, Texas and Utah, have said that they would take executive action against vaccine passports.
However, some states have already rolled out vaccine passports. New York is the first state to offer one, partnering with IBM to create the Excelsior Pass.
If you’re a New Yorker, you can use the Excelsior Pass if you have been fully vaccinated in New York state, and it’s been 14 days or longer since your final shot. You can also use it if you had a negative PCR test administered in New York within three days or if you took a negative antigen test in New York in the previous six hours.
The app was tested at the Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center in February, where users showed their recent negative COVID-19 test as part of admission. New York City’s Madison Square Garden has also piloted the app as the state continues to ease restrictions and expand the ability to gather in larger groups.
Hawaii is also working on a Safe Travel vaccine passport.
Gov. David Ige said in early April that the state was still working on a Safe Travel vaccine passport, and state leaders said summertime is a realistic timeline. Hawaii is partnering with two companies — Clear’s Health Pass and CommonPass — on digital health passes.
There are currently several vaccine passports or digital health passport apps in development. While all states or nations may not adopt them, several countries worldwide are at least open to considering using them for their citizens or foreigners. That means travelers might be able to leave their physical vaccine cards at home in favor of a vaccine passport.
Featured photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
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