After a year of travel practically coming to a standstill, as more people get vaccinated, heading somewhere that is not your backyard is very appealing. However, as air travel has started picking up this spring, a lot is still uncertain.
Domestically, it’s easy to travel. As long as you wear a mask on the plane and follow any COVID-19 travel regulations the state you are traveling to may have, traveling in the U.S. is fairly straightforward. Just recently, the CDC has said that vaccinated individuals are safe to travel without testing or quarantining.
International travel, however, is a whole different story. Many countries are still not opening their borders to tourists. Although countries are worried about opening up borders because of COVID-19, they are also eager to open them to get the tourism industry back. That’s where the possibility of a vaccine passport comes in.
What is a Vaccine Passport?
You may think your COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card issued by the CDC after you get your vaccine is your vaccine passport, but it’s not. (Although we do recommend getting a handy sleeve to keep it safe.) Those cards can be easily copied or faked. A “vaccine passport” is a more common term for a digital health pass. Whatever term you use, there are several apps for your smartphone that allow you to verify your vaccination status quickly and safely while traveling. These apps also allow you to verify negative COVID-19 test results.
There are several different companies experimenting with digital health passes and ultimately, which app you use may all depend on what airline you are flying on and/or what country you are traveling to. Here are some of the digital health passes currently in use by airlines:
IATA Travel Pass
The IATA travel pass is currently in trials and has four components: registry of health requirements, which gives you the ability to look up what the COVID-19 requirements are for the country you are traveling to; registry of testing/vaccination centers; lab results; and the travel pass portion, which will allow you to verify you have been vaccinated. This is currently being tested on 27 airlines including Emirates, Japan Airlines, Swiss, and Virgin Atlantic.
American Airlines and British Airways have implemented VeriFly for verification of health records to select destinations from the U.S. Although the use of VeriFly is limited for travel from the U.S, both airlines, along with Iberian Airlines, are using the app for international travel into the U.S.
CommonPass is currently being used for flights on JetBlue to Aruba. Use one of two testing providers (Vault or XpresCheck) to get tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of your flight. After you get tested, download CommonPass, enter a code provided by JetBlue and select the lab you used, and your negative test result will appear on your phone, all set for your trip to Aruba.
CLEAR Health Pass
Vaccine validation is listed as “coming soon” on its website, but currently you are able to integrate test results from over 30,000 labs. United and Delta are using CLEAR for flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL). With a negative COVID-19 test, you can bypass the 14-day quarantine rule once you arrive in Hawaii. While airline usage of CLEAR Health Pass is limited, it is also being used at sporting venues, restaurants, and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City for entrance clearance.
There are other digital health pass apps floating around, like V-Health in the UK, IBM Digital Pass, and Excelsior, New York’s own digital passport being used as the state starts re-opening. Apps like MyIR are already available in seven states (Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia), and likely will be used for proof of Covid vaccination within each of those states.
Will I Need a Digital Health Pass to Travel?
The straight answer is: we don’t know, but it’s likely. While countries are eager to get tourism hopping again, they aren’t eager to have any setbacks in finally having COVID-19 under control. Digital health passes will be an easy and efficient way to ensure tourists entering won’t be bringing yet another wave to their country. Within the U.S., even with the new guidelines from the CDC, some states may require you to show proof of vaccination before entering. Five states have banned the use of vaccine passports: Florida, Idaho, Texas, Utah, and Montana, so chances are it may be an uneven entry into the world of digital health passes.
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