It’s no secret that the world of travel has changed. From regular RT-PCR checks, in-flight protective gear – the COVID-19 pandemic had changed a lot from our usual checklists of boarding passes, bags, and passports. Adding one more essential to the list is the new “Vaccine Passport”.
In order to avoid losing yet another tourist season, the European Union and some Asian governments are on the road to developing new systems that would allow travelers to prove they have been vaccinated to avoid possible quarantines at their destinations.
Despite the multiple efforts, one key issue remains – that of finding a unified, globally accepted system. With an already cluttered ecosystem of coronavirus applications and tracking applications in many countries, finding a single acceptable platform remains shaky ground. However, as countries open borders for vaccinated tourists and encourage vaccination tourism, the movement has gained momentum and urgency.
The road so far:
– The EU, China and Japan have begun development on native vaccination certificates to allow cross-border travel
– The UK has updated its local NHS App to include vaccination status
– The World Health Organization fears vaccination proof may not act in favor of equality due to the unequal distribution of vaccines worldwide.
The EU’s digital certificate, which is currently under development, is cited to also confirm COVID-19 test results and recovery indications. The system is set to go live by June 30th, however, questions still remain as to implementation because of the lack of internal checkpoints within the EU countries. The certificates can be accessed via QR code, which can be scanned at airports and train stations to crosscheck national databases.
The move towards vaccine passports comes as a welcome addition especially for business travellers who have had to scale back on corporate travel owing to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.
Concerns about Data and Privacy
Vaccination passports are currently a polarizing topic. While some believe a simple yes/no status is hardly an addition to the wealth of information one saves online, there are those that fear that a vaccination passport may become a gateway to further information. Fears about restrictions of freedom have also been voiced as travellers try to grapple with new technology.
As a smartphone comes as a basic requirement for a vaccine passport, questions over inequitable distribution have also been raised. With existing travel passes such as the IATA Travel Pass or the CommonPass already in use – the addition of these certificates also requires acceptance and integration into these platforms. As the vaccination certificate is stipulated to be a travel requirement for a long time, seamless integration seems to be on everyone’s mind.
While the biggest challenge remains developing or agreeing on global requirements for a vaccine passport, there are several other factors to consider.
One is the case of individuals who don’t possess or use a smartphone or the cases of families that share smartphones. Would paper alternatives exist or be accepted everywhere?
Moreover, the possibility of fake vaccination certificates or passports also remains a challenge. In order to address authenticity, would privacy have to be compromised? This remains to be seen.
As global travel industries work around the clock to bring back a state of normalcy, the development of a vaccine passport seems like a good move, which if done well has the possibility to join the ranks of daily travel essentials.