Vaccine Passport or Travel Pass, what to expect to restart tourism
As Covid-19 vaccines are being distributed globally, the daunting subject of a so-called vaccine passport or a vaccine travel pass is surfacing across travel forums. Despite this topic being currently under discussion on several fronts, there is general confusion on the do’s and don’t of such a document.
In this article, we take a closer look at two of the main vaccine passports/travel passes currently being discussed around the world.
- IATA Travel Pass
- Digital Green Certificate (EU Only)
A vaccine passport or travel pass is not to be confused with an obligation to get a Covid-19 vaccine but more as an authentication tool that would enable the authorities to validate the authenticity of a PCR test or a Covid-19 vaccine. In order to do so, each laboratory or medical facility providing either a PCR test or a Covid-19 vaccine would have to be registered as part of the ‘network’ of authorized facilities. Several international institutions and technology companies are developing a digital vaccine passport to support and boost the travel recovery and restart of tourism.
THE IATA TRAVEL PASS
The IATA Travel Pass is a mobile application that helps travelers to store and manage their verified certifications for COVID-19 tests or COVID-19 vaccines. According to IATA, it is based on four modules:
Registry of Health Requirements. Enables passengers to find information on travel, testing, and vaccine requirements for their journey
Registry of testing/vaccination centers. Enables passengers to find testing centers and labs at their departure and/or arrival location that can conduct COVID-19 tests in accordance with the type of test required for their journey
Lab App. Enables authorized labs and test centers to securely send test results or vaccination certificates to passengers
IATA Travel Pass App. Enables passengers to create a ‘digital passport’, verify their test/vaccination meets the regulations & share tests or vaccination certificates with authorities to facilitate travel.
Singapore Airline completed the first trial of the IATA Travel Pass on the 17th of March 2021 on the route Singapore – London. In this video, the IATA Travel Pass is explained as:
- A digital version of your passport (encrypted)
- A tool to check travel requirements for your destination once you enter your flight details
- A secure way to receive Covid19 test results when ready
And only when governments would ever issue a so-called ‘vaccine certificate’ and the person happen to have one because he/she chooses to get vaccinated, it can then be scanned and add it to the app, if – and that’s a big if – it is required for your travels.
However, this sits on the condition that governments should be first able to provide digital COVID-19 test/vaccination certificates to enable the system to verify directly through the app on their mobiles. The main challenges are detected among those countries that are distributing paper certificates or credits, which are often being false or replicated as fakes.
As such, the IATA Travel Pass is not to be confused with a must-have vaccine passport or travel pass for travelers in order to travel, but rather as a tool that would enable travelers to:
- Increase contactless custom checks with their digital passport
- Carry authenticated Covid-19 test results on their phone and not on paper
- Check travel conditions/restrictions in real-time
DIGITAL GREEN CERTIFICATE (EU)
The EU Digital Green Certificate will be valid in all EU Member States as digital proof that a person has either:
- Been vaccinated against COVID-19
- Received a negative test result or
- Recovered from COVID-19
The Digital Green Certificate under discussion to be accepted in all EU Member States. When traveling, every EU citizen and EU resident holding a Digital Green Certificate should be exempted from free movement restrictions. The EU Digital Green Certificate aims at facilitating free movement inside the EU and it is not envisioned as a precondition to free movement.
The approved vaccine range would refer only to EU-approved COVID-19 vaccines, this means that Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm vaccines won’t be recognized by the Digital Green Certificate.
After the initial discussion which took place last March 2021, the EU Digital Green Certificate is envisioned to be up and running by the end of June 2021. There are, however, concerns on how this could cause discrimination among those who:
- are willing to get vaccinated but are not eligible (health reasons, pregnancy, age)
- are not willing to get vaccinated
Moreover, several European countries have already started to develop their own national vaccine/test passes or apps. They are discussing whether the EU Digital Green Certificate would overrule those or not. More Vaccine Passports are included in the Travel Recovery Strategies Ebook, which offers a range of tools, and proven strategies to restart tourism.
A general confusion seems to pervade the travel sentiment around the topic of the travel passes/vaccine passports.
It is worth reiterating that these travel ‘credentials’ are not to be confused with an obligation to get a Covid-19 Vaccine. It’s more an authentication tool that would enable the authorities to validate the authenticity of a PCR test or a Covid-19 vaccine.
In order to do so, each laboratory or medical facility providing either a PCR test or a Covid-19 vaccine would have to be registered as part of the ‘network’ of authorized facilities.
As of now, the task of grouping test centers and medical facilities under one network appears to be rather challenging. In the EU, for example, the questions around privacy and the concerns on data usage are stalling the scrutiny process. It is important to mention that regardless of where, a vaccine passport, app, or pass is being considered also as a preventive measure to avoid the increasing numbers of false PCS tests circulating across countries.
While travel passes might be as simple as a contact-tracing app, it is only now – amid the pandemic – that these tools are being considered and at an initial stage of the trial. More updates will follow in regards to each one of these vaccine passports and for a comprehensive overview follow the link to get a copy of the Travel Recovery Strategies Ebook.
Written by Dolores Semeraro