You just got vaccinated: Here’s what you’ll need for a vaccine passport

May 17, 2021

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Nearly 120 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you’re one of the millions who has been vaccinated, you’re probably thinking, “now what?” — especially if you’re itching to hit the road.

Travelers may need to use vaccine passports to enter certain countries, take certain cruises and tours or be exempt from strict testing and quarantine requirements. They will be a key part of the travel experience moving forward. But to use a vaccine passport, what types of documentation will you need?

We’re not yet close to a standardized system, but several apps and platforms have either been rolled out or are in development. In the meantime, here are the steps you should take after getting vaccinated so you can use a digital health passport when you’re ready to travel. 

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Test results and vaccine records

(Photo by Marko Geber/Getty Images)

If you’re in the United States, you’ll often receive a physical paper card — called the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card — from the CDC after being vaccinated. This card includes medical information about the vaccine you received, the date of vaccination and where you were vaccinated. 

A vaccine passport app will host verified COVID-19 vaccine information similar to what you’d see on your card. These apps will also store information about recent COVID-19 test results. Some of the publicly available vaccine passports include:

  • Clear Health Pass: Used to verify negative tests required at some sports arenas and approve tourists for quarantine-free travel to Hawaii.
  • CommonPass: Travelers on select United Airlines and Lufthansa flights from Frankfurt to the U.S., Hawaiian Airlines and United flights to Hawaii and JetBlue flights to Aruba can use the CommonPass app.
  • IATA Travel Pass: Partnering with 30 airlines worldwide, including ANA, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
  • IBM Digital Health Pass: New York partnered with IBM to create the Excelsior Pass. A New Yorker can use the Excelsior Pass if he or she has been fully vaccinated in New York state and it’s been 14 days or longer since the final shot; had a negative PCR test administered in New York within three days; or took a negative antigen test in New York in the last six hours.
  • VeriFLY: Can be used on select American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Japan Airlines flights to fly into the U.S. from abroad and to several international destinations.
  • V-Health: Its technology is already being included in a platform called HELIIX Health Pass, which has been introduced in Las Vegas to reopen the city.

Import and verify your information

(Image courtesy Clear)

Several digital health passport providers say getting your vaccine status or negative test results onto their apps will be simple. For IATA’s Travel Pass, verification would include taking a photo of your proof of vaccination “to make sure that the content is accurate,” a rep told TPG earlier this year. There are real concerns in the travel and technology communities that some travelers might try to fake negative coronavirus results or COVID-19 vaccines.

IATA has partnered with over a dozen airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Copa Airlines and Qantas. Copa, for instance, is using IATA’s software to store and verify travelers’ negative COVID-19 test results, which is a requirement to enter Panama.

Travel Pass has four features, IATA says.

The first is a global registry of health requirements, which would allow travelers to locate testing and vaccination requirements at their destination. The tool also has a registry of testing and vaccination centers. The “Lab App” allows labs and test centers authorized by IATA to share test and vaccination certificates with passengers. Finally, its contactless Travel App allows travelers to create a “digital passport” with verified testing and vaccination information.

New York State has its own vaccine passport, dubbed the Excelsior Pass. New Yorkers can use the Excelsior Pass if they have been fully vaccinated in New York state and it’s been 14 days or longer since the final shot. They can also use the pass if they had a negative PCR test administered in New York within three days, or took a negative antigen test in New York in the last six hours. The Excelsior Pass is largely expected to be used to reopen large-scale events in New York, such as sporting events and concerts.

Entire countries, such as Iceland, are rolling out vaccine requirements that would allow any traveler who can prove they’ve been vaccinated to skip quarantine. 

The European Union’s upcoming Digital Green Certificate will allow citizens of EU member states to move freely around their own country and travel abroad to other countries within the EU.

The Green Certificate will be available for free in digital (with QR code) or paper format. Non-EU member states, such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, will also use the Green Certificate — but not the United Kingdom. EU countries will be able to link their nations’ vaccine records to a central database, according to Reuters. The Green Certificate — which the EU says is not a vaccine passport — is expected to be fully rolled out in all member states in June.

Keep your vaccine card safe

(Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

This should go without saying, but you don’t want to lose your vaccination card. 

“Treat it like you would treat your driver’s license or your credit cards or your passport, anything that is high value,” said Steve Swasey, the vice president of communications at Healthline (which is also owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures). “Even though it’s a low profile, small piece of paper, it’s an extraordinarily high value for you as a person to be able to travel.” 

Until there’s a universal verification tool, Swasey says he’ll be wearing a sticker he received after being vaccinated, which he plans to laminate when he hits the road.

The CDC recommends that vaccine administrators record vaccine information in a patient’s medical record. All COVID-19 vaccination providers are required to report data within 72 hours in their state’s immunization system.

So, there will likely be a backup record of your vaccination status somewhere. In the event you do lose your card, it wouldn’t hurt to give the facility that administered your injection a call.

Bottom line

While digital health or vaccine passports are expected to be optional, experts say they will be widely used in the travel industry and at other large gatherings, such as sporting events. That means you’ll want to keep your vaccine status or negative COVID-19 results in a safe place, which will make it easier to import them into a health passport or vaccine passport when you’re ready to get back out there.

Featured photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP

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