We have talked a lot about COVID-19 related matters, from identity theft to COVID-19 vaccines, here on the RKN Global blog. In this article, let’s look at vaccine passports.
What are Vaccine Passports?
A vaccine passport is a digital record you get after vaccination and the app you use to access the vaccination record. Countries across the world have developed, or are in the process of developing, different vaccine passports. These allow citizens to access higher-risk activities like attending concerts or traveling.
Different states and the public sector in the US have developed systems to help them verify the vaccination status of people. New York State was the first to release a state-backed vaccine passport.
New York’s Excelsior Pass allows vaccinated New Yorkers to download their health records onto a smartphone app. There, they receive a QR code that businesses and venues can scan to verify their vaccination status. Despite efforts from states and the public sector, the federal government has expressed that it will not mandate vaccine passports.
The pandemic came with numerous restrictions and cancellation of events that would increase the spread of the disease. Among these restrictions were bans on travel and on social events such as sports and entertainment.
With vaccines promising immunity against the coronavirus, governments can slowly reopen borders, allow social events, and restore their economies. The benefit of lifting certain restrictions also incentivizes citizens to get vaccinated against the virus.
The Cons and Concerns
Vaccine passports are seen as a direct route to reopening economies. But critics have pointed out the risk of further marginalization of marginalized groups.
Although countries like Israel have recorded high vaccination rates of more than 70-80% of the eligible population, places like the US are still seeing disparities in vaccination statistics.
The African-American and the Hispanic-American communities have recorded low vaccination rates, as have low-income individuals. A recent report shows that 72% of the US adult population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition to concerns of unequal vaccine distribution and marginalization of certain groups, vaccine passports need careful design to ensure privacy and data protection.
Countries Using Vaccine Passports
Countries around the world have developed different COVID-19 vaccination certificates to allow their citizens to access certain activities or travel. Here are some of the countries that have rolled out their vaccine passports:
- Israel launched the Green pass that allows vaccinated citizens to access leisure venues such as gyms and restaurants.
- The EU launched the EU Digital COVID Certificate for citizens within the EU’s 27 member states, and Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. Estonia and Lithuania are among the first countries to adopt the EU Digital COVID Certificate within the region.
- Denmark launched its digital certificate through its Coronapass system.
- Bahrain offers its vaccinated citizens a digital certificate through the Be Aware app.
- China uses a digital certificate through WeChat.
- Cyprus issues the digital green passport.
- Singapore started using the IATA Travel Pass in May 2021.
- The UK adopted the NHS COVID Pass App to allow fully vaccinated citizens to avoid quarantine when returning to the UK. It also allows them to verify their vaccination status when entering larger venues where large crowds typically gather.
Many countries are looking at vaccine passports as the path towards reopening their economies and verifying that their citizens are vaccinated. The use of vaccine certificates in different countries may also influence the travel requirements for anyone wishing to leave or enter the country. Therefore, if you are traveling, it is important to check the vaccination requirements of your destination country.