6 Questions (and Answers)About Vaccine Passports

What we know about the current status of digital vaccine passports

It’s been less than one month since President Joe Biden took office, and at the top of his agenda are executive orders to better organize and track Covid-19 data to curb the pandemic. One possible solution that’s been gaining more traction in recent days? Vaccine passports. If you’re unfamiliar with with the concept of a vaccine pass or passport, travel reporter Tariro Mzezewa of The New York Times wrote a helpful in-depth explainer summarized below:

1. What is a vaccine pass or passport?

A vaccination pass or passport is documentation proving that you have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

2. Why would I need a vaccine pass or passport?

As more people are inoculated, there will likely be aspects of public life in which only people who have been vaccinated are allowed to participate.

In order to travel internationally, government and health authorities will need to know if you have been vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus. Many countries are already requiring proof of a negative test for entry.

3. Has this been done before?

Having to prove you’ve been vaccinated in order to participate in activities or enter certain countries is not a new concept. For decades, people traveling to some countries have had to prove that they have been vaccinated against diseases such as yellow fever, rubella, and cholera. Often, after being vaccinated, travelers received a signed and stamped “yellow card,” known as an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still urge people to take on relevant trips.

4. Do vaccine passports have to be digital?

Vaccine passports don’t have to be digital, but they would make the travel process smoother.

5. What are the objections to vaccine passports?

In a world where more than 1 billion people aren’t able to prove their identity because they lack passports, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, or national identification cards, digital documents that show vaccine status may heighten inequality and risk, leaving many people behind.

In addition, there are concerns about privacy and data sharing.

6. What are the challenges to creating these digital passes?

Technologists and travel industry experts said that although it is possible to rush tech solutions that allow people to have one-use apps, creating long-lasting ethical technology or systems that will not store people’s data, or make it possible to track where they are, takes time.

Read more from Mzezewa’s reporting below:

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A blog from Medium for Covid-19 news, advice, and commentary.

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Gloria Oh

Gloria Oh

Senior Editor, Medium. Founding Editor of Index. Previously, The Atlantic.

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