COVID-19 Vaccination Passports To Become Mandatory

Beth Marcus wants a vaccine passport. She’s had both of her shots but can’t prove it. Unless she can, she’s afraid she may not be allowed to visit Europe.

How do you get a vaccine passport?

The clinic where she received her shots issued a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a small, white paper card where she recorded both her vaccinations.

Marcus, a retired finance worker from Frederick, Maryland, took a picture of the card, so she could show it to anyone who asks. She suspects it’s not enough.

“I would like more substantial proof,” she says.

Israel and Europe have taken the lead on developing a secure digital immunity certification.

You may be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine passport by enrolling in one of the tests underway. In the meantime, you have a few imperfect options for showing you received your shots.

What is a vaccine passport? How would it work for travel?

“There’s no vaccine passport in the United States,” says Peter Vlitas, senior vice president of airline relations for Internova Travel Group. But we’re close.

The most promising one is the IATA Travel Pass. It’s being tested among 22 airlines, and the airline trade organization expects to release it this month. It will be limited to air travel and border crossings.

TripActions’ app-based health passport, a private initiative that launches early next month, will allow travelers to upload and store all necessary documentation required for domestic and international travel within a centralized hub.

The only vaccine passport in widespread use is Israel’s Green Pass. The certificate, available as either a smartphone app or paper ID using a QR code for authentication, allows users to prove their vaccine status in Israel.

Passholders use their credentials to visit the gym, pool, restaurant or participate in any other activity previously restricted because of COVID-19.

Only Israeli residents qualify for a Green Pass, but Israel is in discussions with other countries to have the passes accepted outside the country, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

The European Union is developing a Digital Green Certificate to prove people have had their shots and “facilitate safe free movement” inside the EU during the pandemic.

The vaccine ID, which is likely to be available by June, will be available in digital or paper format.

In the USA, airlines have been pushing the government to create a vaccine passport for Americans, saying verifiable testing of vaccination data is “critical to the return of travel.”

New York launched a version of a vaccine passport. The first-in-the-nation certification, called the Excelsior Pass, will be accepted at dozens of event, arts and entertainment venues statewide.

There are so many vaccine passport proposals that it’s almost impossible to track all of them, but they all have one thing in common: They are not officially recognized, at least for now.

What should travelers do?

“There’s a rush to deliver a digital vaccine passport solution, as many countries will make it mandatory to have proof of vaccinations and actively court vaccinated travelers,” says Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO of VisitorsCoverage.

How do you prove you’re vaccinated? Here are your options:

Think about laminating your COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card.

That’s what Paula Miller and her husband did.

“We felt that they would hold up better when we need to present them while traveling domestically or internationally,” says Miller, a retired teacher from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Vaccination Record Card from the CDC

Like Marcus, she’d prefer the real thing.

“We have flights to Paris scheduled for November,” she says. “I hope that issue is resolved by then.”

The biggest problem with lamination: The document isn’t secure. (You can buy a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card online for about $20 and fill it in yourself.)

If boosters are needed, a laminated card might be a problem. But until we have a vaccine passport, this may have to do.

RELATED: Which COVID-19 Vaccine Should You Choose?

Fill in your WHO Yellow Card

If you received shots for a previous international trip, you have a World Health Organization (WHO) Yellow Card (International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis).

“The Yellow Card has been the de facto standard for proving international vaccination compliance for decades,” says Warren Jaferian, the dean for Endicott College’s Office of International Education in Beverly, Massachusetts.

I have a Yellow Card from previous trips, and when I received my shots, I asked the clinic to record the vaccines. I had to ask a supervisor, but he did.

There are two issues with the Yellow Card. They are scarce (some have reported they’re unavailable), and they are not secure. An e-Yellow Card is reportedly under development.

Fly on a Travel Pass airline

If you can book a ticket on one of the airlines testing the IATA Travel Pass, you may be able to access the IATA vaccine passport.

Those carriers include Virgin Atlantic, Japan’s ANA, Emirates and Singapore Airlines. Travel Pass is still being evaluated, so there’s no assurance that your digital passport will work on your next flight or that it will be accepted anywhere.

Until there’s a real vaccine passport, you’ll need to get creative. Marcus, who plans to visit the Baltics next year, created her own makeshift vaccine ID.

“I made a color copy of the original and had it laminated at Staples,” she says. “I didn’t laminate the original because I want it to be possible for boosters, if needed, to be recorded on the same document.”

She hopes it will work. Timing is everything when it comes to certifying vaccination. At the rate things are going, the pandemic will end before America has a real vaccine passport.

Avoid these vaccine passport traps

Don’t pay for it. A legitimate vaccine ID is free. Both the Israeli and proposed European version cost nothing.

There are some unofficial vaccine IDs in the USA that make you pay for certification. They are not legit.

Make sure it’s secure. You can buy a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card or a World Health Organization Yellow Card online and fill it out.

But it’s not a secure record of your vaccination, and it probably won’t work when the real thing comes along.

Avoid any vaccine passport that doesn’t have a QR code or a way to authenticate your vaccine status securely.

Find out if it’s accepted. Several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Virgin Voyages, Crystal Cruises and American Cruise Lines, announced they will begin to require proof of vaccination for passengers (at least on some of their voyages), though they haven’t specified which records will be accepted.

Your travel adviser can tell you what type of proof will be accepted by the cruise line. Don’t take chances – get the right vaccine passport, or you could be left high and dry.

Britain COVID-19 Vaccine Passports

Britain is planning to test a series of measures including “coronavirus status certifications” over the coming weeks to see if they can allow people to safely return to mass gatherings at sports arenas, nightclubs and concerts.

People attending a range of events, including conferences and soccer’s FA Cup, will need to be tested both before and after.

The trials will also gather evidence on how ventilation and different approaches to social distancing could enable large events to go ahead.

Officials are also developing plans to trial COVID-19 passports that are expected to show if a person has received a vaccine, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has some immunity due to having tested positive in the previous six months.

The issue of vaccine passports has been a hotly debated topic around the world, including in the United States and Israel.

The question is how much governments, employers, venues and other places have a right to know about a person’s virus status.

Many disagree over what the right balance is between a person’s right to medical privacy and the collective right of people in groups not to be infected with a dangerous disease by others.

Some critics also say such vaccine passports will enable discrimination against poor people and impoverished nations that do not have ready access to vaccines.

Authorities in Britain have said the passes could involve the use of an app or paper certificates for those who don’t have access to the digital option.

But U.K. Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston stressed to reporters that “the earliest pilots almost certainly won’t involve any elements of certification” but will involve testing before and after the events.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to set out more details about the coronavirus passports on Monday.

“We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country so people can return to the events, travel and other things they love as safely as possible, and these reviews will play an important role in allowing this to happen,” Johnson said.

Dozens of British lawmakers, including some from Johnson’s own Conservative Party, have opposed the plans.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who has led the task force responsible for drawing up the plans, acknowledged that vaccine passports raised “a host of practical and ethical questions” which needed to be resolved before any wider rollout.

Officials said the trial events include the FA Cup semi-final at London’s Wembley Stadium later this month with a crowd of 4,000 in a stadium that seats 90,000, and the event’s final on May 15, with a crowd of 21,000.

Other events include the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield, central England and a comedy club gathering.

The news about the trials came as businesses including pubs, restaurants, nonessential shops and hairdressers prepared to welcome back customers as restrictions ease in England.

Officials say about 47% of the country’s population has had a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and more than 5 million people in the U.K. have received their second dose.

Johnson’s government is also expected to set out its approach to easing restrictions on international travel next week.

Media reports say when Britain’s current ban on foreign holidays is lifted, a risk-based traffic light system with ratings for countries around the world will be introduced and travelers will be required to quarantine accordingly.

More details are to be unveiled when a government task force on global travel reports on April 12.

The government has said that international leisure travel cannot take place until mid-May at the earliest.

Last week the U.K. added four more nations to its red list of countries from which travel is banned except for U.K. citizens and those with residency rights.

By April 9, the U.K. red list will be up to 39 countries. It aims to prevent more virus variants — especially ones first detected in Brazil and South Africa — from getting into the U.K.

Despite Britain’s success on the vaccination front, it still has the highest reported COVID-19 death toll in Europe at around 127,000 deaths.

Infections have come down significantly in Britain. The government on Sunday reported only 2,297 confirmed new daily cases and 10 additional deaths.

That compares to nearly 70,000 daily new cases and up to 1,800 daily COVID-19 deaths in January.

The latest figures were likely lower than expected because of a lag in reporting over the Easter weekend.

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