To reopen their borders and revive their economy, many governments are considering putting in place a “vaccination passport” or an “immunity certificate” to allow travelers vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel safely again. However, some fear that the requirement to have a vaccination passport to travel would discriminate against people who do not yet have access to the vaccine.
There is currently no consensus on how the vaccination passport works. However, many governments would like it to take the form of a smartphone app that contains information about the traveler’s vaccination. This information could then be verified before boarding. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has developed a system called the “Travel Pass” that would provide travelers with information about the tests and vaccines required for their destination country. In addition, this digital passport would also contain the results of PCR or antigen tests as well as the passenger’s vaccination certificate. This information would be provided directly by health professionals.
The United Kingdom is studying the possibility of introducing a vaccination passport that would allow people to travel, stay in hotels or attend shows. According to Bloomberg, companies in the technology sector, such as iProov or Mvine, have developed applications which are currently being tested by the National Health Service (NHS, UK Health Service). The European Union (EU) presented its “digital green passport” on Wednesday. This passport would allow Europeans who have received the vaccine to travel freely within Europe for work or leisure, thus avoiding restrictions. In the United States, the company Clear is currently testing an application that makes it possible to consult information relating to vaccines or passenger PCR tests on certain flights to Hawaii, as part of a pilot program with this American state.
The vaccination passport will not be reserved only for travel. The US company specializing in the sale and distribution of show tickets, Ticketmaster, said it is exploring options for event planners who wish to require attendees to present proof of vaccination. This would allow ticket holders for an event to link their vaccination record to their digital ticket.
Nevertheless, the vaccination passport is the subject of many criticisms. Some are concerned about privacy and the discriminatory repercussions of such a system. Indeed, the vaccination campaign is not progressing at the same pace in all countries (some countries still do not have access to vaccines). Sometimes, within the same country, some regions are lagging behind others. The Liberty organization (organization for the defense of fundamental freedoms in United Kingdom, Editor’s note) said in a press release last month: “These so-called passports claim to guarantee a return to normal life for those who can prove they are immune to the coronavirus. This raises an essential question: what about others? […] All the proposals forgot one essential element: it is impossible to put in place an immunity passport without violating human rights ”. In January, the World Health Organization (WHO) said governments should not, for now, “introduce as a condition of entry a requirement of proof of vaccination or immunity for international travel. “
The uneven deployment of vaccines around the world, the uneven progress of the vaccination campaign on a global scale and the different approaches concerning the establishment of a vaccination passport go against the objective of the said vaccination passport. In addition, not all vaccines are authorized in the same countries. For example, the China resumed visa review for foreigners from certain countries. However, the Chinese authorities will only grant the visa to people vaccinated with a vaccine made in China. According to Politico, the digital passport system offered by the EU mainly covers EU-approved covid-19 vaccines. However, Member States will be able to accept entry of people vaccinated with Russian or Chinese vaccines. Likewise, the United States could be faced with a dilemma with foreign vaccines that have not yet received national approval (for example, the AstraZeneca vaccine).
Those working on the establishment of a vaccine passport are aware that the development of such a system on a global scale will be a real challenge. Drummond Reed, director of the fiduciary department of Evernym, who has worked with IATA, told the New York Times : “It took 50 years to develop the global passport system… Today within a very short timeframe, we have to produce a digital identity document that can be as universally recognized as a passport and that requires a level of even higher confidentiality because it will be digital ”.
The possibility of the vaccination passport becoming permanent also worries public opinion. André Rogaczewski, CEO of Netcompany, which has received funds from the UK government to set up a testing certification system, told the Financial Times that, according to him, the systems for certifying vaccines and tests should only be used in the short term and “should die in due course.” The lifespan of such a system could depend on how long it takes to immunize the entire world population. According to a report published by theEconomist Intelligence Unit by January, developed countries may be able to immunize their entire adult population by 2022. However, some low-income countries may have to wait until 2024.
The american president Joe Biden pledged access to vaccines for the entire adult population in the United States by mid-May. Its national coronavirus pandemic strategy also includes a directive asking government agencies to “assess the feasibility” of linking covid-19 vaccines to international vaccination certificates, and thus produce digital versions of the latter. . It is not yet clear whether the Biden government will take a unified federal approach or whether it will defer to private bodies instead.
Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Siladitya Ray