Some states are rolling out vaccine passports — here’s what you need to know
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Vaccine passports are widely seen as a way to restart travel safely, and proof of vaccination is quickly becoming a requirement for cruises, tours and entry to certain international destinations.
And though the White House has said there would be no federal mandate for vaccine passports or plans for a vaccine database, individual states can still decide whether they want to roll out vaccine passports — or not.
Some states have already introduced their own digital health passports with assistance from the private sector, while others are still in development. But the idea is entirely off the table in several states. As a result, vaccine passports have created something of a flashpoint.
So, would you use a digital health credential or vaccine passport in the United States? Here’s what you need to know about state vaccine passports.
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California recently launched a digital way to get access to vaccination records.
Unlike New York State’s Excelsior Pass, the vaccine record is not a standalone app. Instead, people vaccinated in California can enter information such as name, birthdate and an email or phone number associated with their vaccination record. If there’s a match, they will be texted or emailed a link to the record in the form of a QR code.
But the state said the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record isn’t a vaccine passport.
“You are not required to obtain a digital COVID-19 vaccine record,” says the state’s website. “It is an optional means to obtain your COVID-19 vaccine information, and is the digital version of your paper vaccine card. It is one of the options to show proof of vaccination. [California] will not be implementing a mandatory passport system ….”
The state of Hawaii on May 11 rolled out its new vaccine passport program inside its current travel entry system, Safe Travels. As of right now, though, it is only for inter-island travel, and it’s only available to people who received a COVID-19 vaccine in Hawaii.
You can only use it to avoid testing if it’s been two weeks after the last shot (or the first shot if it’s the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine). So, unfortunately, if you’re coming from out of state, or if you didn’t get your vaccine in Hawaii, you can’t use this platform just yet.
However, Hawaii said the program will expand to include domestic travelers vaccinated in the United States once the state reaches a 60% vaccination rate. The Safe Travels program will end altogether once Hawaii reaches a 70% vaccination rate. Just over 48% of the population has been fully vaccinated as of June 22.
In the meantime, as long as you can show proof of vaccination, out-of-state visitors can skip the mandatory 10-day quarantine that’s part of Hawaii’s travel requirements. And you still have options if you want to use a digital way to prove your vaccination or COVID-19 test status. The state is partnering with two companies — Clear’s Health Pass and CommonPass — on digital health passes.
In early April, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed an executive order banning any governmental entity in Idaho from requiring vaccine passports to receive public services or access facilities.
“Vaccine passports create different classes of citizens. Vaccine passports restrict the free flow of commerce during a time when life and the economy are returning to normal. Vaccine passports threaten individual freedom and patient privacy,” Little said in a statement.
Illinois will not create a state vaccine passport, according to its governor.
According to NBC Chicago, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said, “We want to make that available” if it’s something people desire, “but otherwise, it’s not something that we would require.”
Vaccine passports won’t be coming to Montana. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte issued an executive order last month banning the use of vaccine passports in Big Sky Country.
New York is the first state to offer a vaccine passport. It partnered with IBM and used its technology to create the Excelsior Pass.
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 can also use it if you had a negative PCR test administered in New York within three days or if you took a negative antigen test in New York in the previous six hours.
The app has been tested at major sporting events and other large gatherings where users showed their recent negative COVID-19 test or vaccination status as part of admission. New York City’s Madison Square Garden has also piloted the app as the state continues to ease restrictions.
Related: Your guide to vaccine passports
Like several of his gubernatorial colleagues, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a law banning the state government from requiring vaccine passports — but private companies can still require them.
State vaccine passports have been a huge talking point as travel starts to reopen and rebound from the pandemic. But not all states agree on using them, which means you may travel to one state using a vaccine passport and then another where the use of them has been banned.
It’s not clear yet what some of these state passports may look like or, for some, when they’ll be released. But what’s clear is that the federal government is leaving this issue entirely up to the states.
Featured image courtesy of Clear.
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