What is a vaccine passport?

vaccine passport covid
Photo via Baltimore County Government/Flickr (Public Domain)

As businesses start to reopen at higher capacities and people begin to travel more often during the pandemic, consumers may eventually be required to show proof of vaccination. A digital vaccine “passport” could soon become a way to verify vaccination statuses and to provide proof of vaccination to airlines, retailers, and more. 

Those who have already been vaccinated have received a card confirming their vaccination status. A vaccine passport would act similarly as a digital “ID card.” Employers and retailers could scan the app and it would tell others if the consumer had received a vaccination. 

The data would come from digital vaccination records from healthcare providers or government registries. The data would only be stored on an individual’s phone instead of a central database, and ultimately, that would help protect privacy. The app will determine the authenticity of the vaccination records and whether they meet the travel requirements. The app then creates a QR code that can be scanned, and it will give a simple yes or no answer. The app would not give more detailed information.

Vaccine passports would not only be useful for businesses, but they could help scientists learn more about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. Though studies have shown the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 95% effective (with the upcoming Johnson & Johnson vaccine a little less effective than that), having continuous studies and monitoring could help scientists evaluate the efficacy.

“Having trustworthy and reliable proof of vaccination for COVID-19 vaccine will be essential for public health purposes, such as studies on vaccine effectiveness, vaccine impact, coverage monitoring, and monitoring of adverse events following immunization,” a World Health Organization spokesperson told Newsweek.

Multiple companies are developing vaccine passports, which should become available in the coming months. The World Economic Forum is developing an app, CommonPass, with officials from 52 countries. CommonPass is undergoing trials with international airlines, including United and Cathay Pacific. The International Air Transport Association is also developing a vaccine passport app. 

COVID vaccines have not been deemed mandatory yet, but schools, employers, and businesses could require them in the future. According to a survey from Sykes Enterprises, 54% of respondents supported a vaccine requirement for the workplace.

Legislation has been proposed but not passed to require COVID-19 vaccinations. New York State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D) proposed legislation that could require all state residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The proposed mandate would only be enacted if not enough residents voluntarily get vaccinated to reach herd immunity. The mandate would allow medical exemptions.

However, legislation has also been proposed to ban employers, schools, or businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccines, and some claim it infringes on individual rights.

Read more on the coronavirus vaccine:

Sources: Quartz, WebMD, Sykes

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