VACCINE PASSPORTS: DO THEY ACTUALLY EXIST?
Updated: May 24, 2021
I have been seeing pictures and videos of flight attendants holding yellow COVID vaccine cards on many social media platforms recently. At a closer glance, it seems these COVID vaccine cards are administered by the World Health Organization (WHO).
While there has been much controversy over the concept of a vaccine passport, I like the idea of traveling internationally without having to obtain a COVID test before entering every country on my itinerary.
So did it mean that these WHO-issued COVID vaccine cards would be available to the rest of us?
If we all were going to work for an international airline, then maybe yes (but that may even be a big maybe). Otherwise, here’s the rundown on what vaccine passports mean for world travelers, mostly those out of the U.S.
What a “vaccine passport” is not
If you went and got a COVID-19 shot, the paper vaccine card that you get is not a vaccine passport. That is your record of vaccination. Per the U.S. government, it’s not mandatory to get the shot, so the U.S. government isn’t going to issue a vaccine passport. You can take a photo of your paper vaccine card, just for your own peace of mind, as no airline has asked if you’ve been vaccinated.
What a “vaccine passport” is
The term “vaccine passport” can refer to a smartphone app that confirms that someone has received the COVID-19 vaccine or has received a recent negative COVID test. CommonPass and HealthPass are two such apps on iOS and Android. The International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s Travel Pass is currently available on iOS but will later launch on Android.
As countries start to open up, these vaccine passports can help us get back to a more active public life. Some concert or sports venues may implement the use of a vaccine passport. If you board a flight, you can show proof of your vaccination or recent negative test. Right now, these apps aren’t widely used. For IATA’s Travel Pass, there is no set standard on how it’s going to be used. It will all depend on the airline and the requirements of the country that you’re going to.
The bottom line: if a vaccine passport were to be put into wider use internationally, it would most likely be digital. Unlike the U.S., the European Union is developing the “Digital Green Certificate,” a vaccine passport for EU citizens to travel within Europe.
If there’s no vaccine passport, is there no getting around a COVID test?
The very short answer is no. Even if you’ve been vaccinated, most countries still require a test. However, there is a growing list of countries (about 20 as of today) accepting a vaccine card in lieu of a test. Among the more popular destinations are Greece, Iceland, Israel, and the Bahamas among the more popular destinations. Also, returning from an international trip still requires that you get tested within 72 hours of arrival into the U.S.