Some countries are reopening to tourism, giving us hope that we will soon be able to travel freely and safely once more! To help start-up international travel, the European Union, several Asian governments, and the airline industry are looking to establish ‘Covid-19 Vaccine Passports’. The primary concern is how to prove travelers have been vaccinated and what that means in terms of avoiding quarantine restrictions. It would need to include a global, presumably digital, system for verifying vaccination statuses. There's also the issue of healthcare privacy.
In the United States, there are various state-led incentive schemes to urge residents to be vaccinated, such as free college tuition, million-dollar lotteries, and free transportation for a year. Several local businesses, including pubs, sporting events, and restaurants, are offering free beverages or tickets to anyone who can present their CDC vaccination card. This is the first stage in having citizens vaccinated, and it has already been announced that approximately 50% of Americans have been vaccinated. With these cards already distributed, it may help with the integration into apps or online verifications that airlines and governments require. Indeed, Europe has recently welcomed vaccinated Americans and is developing its own cross-border digital vaccination certificates. In the cross-border system, China and Japan have followed suit. The National Health Service app in the United Kingdom has been updated to assist travelers in proving their vaccination status.
United Airlines have just announced a vaccination incentive named “Your Shot to Fly Sweepstakes”. This includes: 5 grand prize winners, selected randomly on July 1, will receive one year of free travel to any of our global destinations in any class of service for themselves and one companion traveling with them. Additionally, there will be 30 winners, selected randomly in June, who will win a roundtrip flight for two in any class of service, anywhere United flies. Travelers, this is your chance!
In terms of American healthcare privacy, some may wonder if asking for proof of vaccination violates your medical privacy or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)? The short answer would be ‘no, it does not violate your rights'. HIPPA covers physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, dentists, physical therapists, and most healthcare providers that fall into this category. Anyone outside healthcare, such as businesses, have the right to ask you for proof of vaccination. Whether or not one provides that information is another story, but can be denied entry or access as a consequence.
Several cases have developed of fraudsters fabricating or obtaining false COVID19 documents, and this digital approach is expected to protect against this. It would be more difficult to forge these documents with a two-step verification, which is something we see all the time.
It's worth noting that vaccination passports aren't brand new. Proof of vaccination from other diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria, are in place to prevent world health crises. In some cases, proof of vaccinations is even necessary in order to travel to certain locations. The World Health Organization (WHO) established the international vaccine certificate in the 1930s, and it has been in use for decades. This certificate is even accepted as a mandatory vaccination record for those asking for an immigrant visa or an adjustment of status in the United States. Remember that vaccinations are protecting you and the people around you.
If you’re considering traveling, here are passports of the world ranked by their total mobility score by Passport Index as of May 28, 2021:
135: Finland, Spain, and Switzerland
134: Sweden, Austria, Italy, Ireland, and New Zealand
133: Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, France, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, and South Korea
132: Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Norway, and Poland