Your guide to vaccine passports
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Travelers may need to use vaccine passports to enter certain countries or to be exempt from strict testing and quarantine requirements in a post-pandemic world.
Currently, the only way to confirm vaccine status in the United States is a card from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Getting COVID-19 test results for travel is a little easier as many facilities put them online, but we’re not yet close to a standardized system used worldwide.
Before we dive in, it’s important to acknowledge that “vaccine passport” is a pretty broad term, and that every app or platform won’t offer the same features. In fact, several platforms on this list, such as IATA’s Travel Pass, shy away from the term “passport” altogether.
In addition, many of these are still in development. And you may not always be able to choose the same platform every time. For example, American Airlines and British Airways are currently using VeriFLY, while IATA Travel Pass is being tested on international carriers such as Emirates and Qantas.
To simply keep track of your vaccine or test status, you may want to create a COVID-19 folder on your home screen or download an app such as Clear (see below) for personal use.
Here’s what you need to know about the vaccine passports currently available or in development.
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Clear Health Pass
Clear’s Health Pass feature is already being used to verify negative tests required at some sports arenas and to approve tourists for quarantine-free travel to Hawaii.
Delta and United flyers traveling nonstop from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) can securely link their test results and verify their identity, making it easy for Hawaii to identify travelers approved to avoid the state’s otherwise-mandatory 10-day quarantine.
“After a quick enrollment, users can securely link their lab results, and soon vaccination results, through Clear’s large nationwide network of healthcare facilities, pharmacies, labs and at-home testing options,” a Clear spokesperson told TPG in an email.
Travelers can use the app to integrate their latest COVID-19 lab result, and Clear says the app has access to more than 30,000 labs. If you’re already a member of Clear’s expedited security program, you can access the Health Pass feature by logging into your paid account.
Clear Health Pass is available on select flights to Hawaii as well as venues such as the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum. People who have been vaccinated at Walmart, which is partnering with Clear, will be able to link their vaccination record through the app.
CommonPass is an independent app that collects a user’s COVID-19 status and verifies his or her identity. It then produces a unique QR verification code that airlines and countries can rely on to ensure that a traveler does not have the virus. The makers of the app say CommonPass lets travelers access their lab results and vaccination records.
The app is developed through The Commons Project, The World Economic Forum and other organizations to allow passengers to “document their COVID-19 status to satisfy country entry requirements while protecting their health data privacy.”
United Airlines hosted volunteers to trial the CommonPass app on a flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to Newark Liberty International (EWR) last October. Japan-based All Nippon Airways tested the app on its Tokyo-Haneda (HND) to New York route on March 29.
CommonPass says the app is “soon to be available” in the Apple app store and Google Play store, but that several airlines, including JetBlue and Lufthansa, began the rollout to passengers in December from New York, Boston, London and Hong Kong.
IATA Travel Pass
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) will host verified test and vaccine information on its Travel Pass app. IATA says its travel pass will be “more secure and efficient” than the paper form often used.
“You would take a picture or a scan of that particular credential, which would, in this case, be a CDC vaccination card with your name on it,” Nick Careen, a senior vice president at IATA, told TPG last month. “We would need to verify that against your digital credential that has been created in the app to make sure that the content is accurate because we don’t want to have a situation where we’ve created a case where someone has a fake card that’s uploaded.”
IATA is partnering with several major airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Ethopian Airlines. Singapore launched a full pilot on March 15 on its Singapore (SIN) to London route, while Qatar launched on March 18. Pilots of the app began in late 2020, and IATA is targeting a mid-April launch for iOS users and a late April launch for Android phones.
IBM Digital Health Pass
The pandemic has forced many Americans to work remotely or put off travel indefinitely. IBM’s Digital Health Pass is designed to “bring people back to a physical location,” such as an airplane.
The app uses blockchain technology that allows individuals to share their health status through an encrypted digital wallet. This pass has integrated with Salesforce to help businesses and schools verify test results and vaccine status.
New York partnered with IBM and used this technology to create the Excelsior Pass, a mobile app that was tested at a Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center on Feb. 27, where users showed their recent negative COVID-19 test as part of admission.
Madison Square Garden will be the first large arena in the state to utilize the app (beginning next week), followed by the Times Union Center in Albany. And beginning April 2, it will expand to smaller venues as the state continues to ease restrictions and expand the ability to gather in larger groups.
“The state is modeling for the rest of the country how new, technology-enabled approaches can help safely reinvigorate economies while also striving to protect public health,” said Steve LaFleche, a general manager at IBM Public.
And now, it’s poised to expand to additional venues, according to a March 26 statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. If you’re a New Yorker, you can use the Excelsior Pass if you have been fully vaccinated in New York state and it’s been 14 days or longer since your final shot; you had a negative PCR test administered in New York within three days; or you took a negative antigen test in New York in the last six hours.
The app is now available for both iOS and Android users — and businesses that are interested in using the technology can download the companion scanner app (also available for iOS and Android) to begin participating.
American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia have introduced a free mobile health passport called VeriFLY that can be used to fly into the U.S. from abroad.
The app certifies negative test results and required travel documentation to streamline the travel journey and is voluntary. An executive on a British Airways media call last month said the app uses the same secure mobile wallet as a digital bank account.
“When a customer chooses to use VeriFLY, any tests or health insurance documents they upload [are] purely confidential within the VeriFLY ecosystem, and American doesn’t receive any of that,” Preston Peterson, American Airlines’ director of customer experience innovation, told TPG last month.
American Airlines passengers can use VeriFLY on international flights to the U.S. and direct and connecting flights from American’s domestic airports to destinations like the United Kingdom and Jamaica.
The U.K.-based V-Health app includes a built-in contact tracing tool and a way to make an appointment with testing centers nearby, which can then be added to the passport. The app is available for Apple and Android devices.
Many vaccine passports will use a QR code to certify test results, but the V-Health Passport won’t be one of them. Instead, it will use its own technology instead of QR codes, which he says can be faked, especially at large events where staff members aren’t trained to spot them.
“Ten people could turn up with the same health pass [QR code], and it would be down to the security guard to check them off, which doesn’t help with [the] ingress of large crowds,” Louis-James Davis, the CEO at VST Enterprises told TPG last month.
V-Health Passport’s technology is already being included in a platform called HELIIX Health Pass, which has been introduced in Las Vegas as a way to reopen the city. It’s also available as a standalone app in the Apple app store and Google Play.
We’re still a ways from a standardized health pass or vaccine passport — and some countries aren’t yet fans of the idea. Right now, some apps only allow travelers to upload and verify negative COVID-19 test results. And some of these tools won’t be standalone apps but will instead integrate into new or existing platforms. Either way, some form of a vaccine passport will likely be used when traveling in the near future.
Additional reporting by Nick Ewen.
Featured image courtesy of Clear
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