Your most prized travel accessory is about to become your vaccine passport

Mar 22, 2021

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If you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you’re probably wondering, “can I travel yet?”

Travel is definitely beginning to pick back up, but depending on where you’re headed and what type of trip you want to take, you may need to pack more than just your photo ID and wallet. Now, you might also need a vaccine or digital health passport before you hit the road.

We’ve spent a lot of time at TPG over the past few months talking about vaccine passports: what they are, who’s making them and where you may be able to travel with one. Not every app or platform will offer the same features, but being able to prove your vaccination status will likely be an essential part of the travel experience after the pandemic. 

Here’s why a vaccine passport could be the key to having a safe, seamless trip the next time you travel. 

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Some destinations will require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine

Puako Beach, Hawaii. (Photo by Bob Christensen/Getty Images)

More than 90 countries have now reopened to U.S. tourists — and some of those countries have already announced plans for travelers who have been fully vaccinated. 

In some cases, being able to show proof of vaccination may be your only way in. Last week, for example, Iceland said it would welcome fully vaccinated travelers — yes, even Americans — who can prove they’ve been fully vaccinated. In this case, even paper certificates issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be acceptable when digital documents are not available.

After all, some digital health passports are still in the early stages of development. However, the European Union has indicated that it’s developing a version of vaccine passports for Europe. The Digital Green Certificate will prove that travelers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19.

These apps are desirable because they mean you don’t have to keep track of paper documents, and they are being designed to verify the information to reduce the likelihood of fraud.

Related: EU unveils Digital Green Certificates proposal for return to summer travel

Proof of a vaccine can get you out of quarantine

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

Early on in the pandemic, many destinations had strict testing and quarantine requirements. As more people worldwide become vaccinated, some locations — particularly those heavily reliant on tourism — have eased those requirements.

At least a dozen countries, per TPG’s count, have already announced they are (or will soon) allow access and waive quarantine and testing mandates for visitors who are fully vaccinated.

Here are the countries waiving testing and quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers:

  • Belize: Travelers no longer have to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test as long as they have received both shots of a government-approved vaccine at least two weeks before arrival.
  • Cyprus: British travelers who can provide proof of vaccination on arrival into Cyprus will no longer have to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test or be subject to quarantine starting May 1, 2021.
  • Estonia: travelers must present a valid vaccination certificate that discloses where the vaccine was made, which vaccine was used, the issuer of the vaccine and the batch number of the vaccine. U.S. citizens are not allowed to enter the country.
  • Georgia: Citizens from all countries are permitted to enter Georgia by air if they can prove they have received the full course of any of the COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Iceland: Eligible U.S. citizens are now allowed to visit Iceland. Additionally, travelers from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland who can prove they’ve been vaccinated will be exempt from testing and quarantine requirements on arrival into Iceland.
  • Lebanon: Arrivals into Lebanon who can prove they’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine will be exempt from having to quarantine but will still have to take a COVID-19 test.
  • Lithuania: Travelers with proof that they have completed the full course of one of the coronavirus vaccines will be exempt from testing on arrival and quarantine. U.S. citizens are not allowed to enter the country.
  • Poland: Travelers who can prove with a certificate that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be exempt from the quarantine period. U.S. citizens are not allowed to enter the country.
  • Romania: Travelers with proof of vaccination can visit without quarantine. U.S. citizens are not allowed to enter the country.
  • Seychelles archipelago: Open to travelers from all countries who have received full doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Slovenia: Travelers to Slovenia will be exempt from having to quarantine for 10 days on arrival if vaccinated. U.S. citizens are not allowed to enter the country.
  • Thailand: The Thai government is planning on allowing non-Thai travelers who have been vaccinated into the country. Americans are allowed into Thailand but must apply for a special visa.

Travelers bound for Belize, for example, no longer have to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test as long as they have received both shots of a government-approved vaccine at least two weeks before arrival. 

Even closer to home, being able to prove you’ve been vaccinated could exempt you from strict testing and quarantine requirements. Hawaii, for example, is considering allowing vaccinated travelers to skip otherwise mandatory quarantine requirements. And domestic travelers headed for New York are no longer required to quarantine or test out of the quarantine period when they’re within 90 days of full vaccination.

So, even if having proof of vaccination isn’t a requirement, it could be the key to skipping lengthy quarantine periods and rigorous testing requirements.

Digital health apps can simplify the trip

(Image courtesy of The Commons Project Foundation)

Digital health passports have already been rolled out on several popular routes on different airlines.

Clear’s Health Pass feature is being used for Delta and United flyers traveling nonstop from Los Angeles International (LAX) to Honolulu International (HNL). The pass, which is voluntary to use, allows travelers to 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.

United also hosted volunteers to trial the CommonPass app on a flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to Newark (EWR) last year, while American Airlines and British Airways introduced a mobile health passport called VeriFLY. Copa Airlines and the Panamanian government are also partnering with IATA Travel Pass to create a health passport.

Other digital health passports in development or already rolled out include IBM’s Digital Health Pass, which has been used to enter sports games in New York City. The V-Health Passport technology has been introduced in Las Vegas to reopen the city.

Related: Your guide to digital health passports

An important new travel amenity

(Photo by ArtistGNDphotography/Getty Images)

Currently, the only way to confirm vaccination status in the U.S. is a physical paper card from the CDC. This card includes medical information like the vaccine you received, the date you received it and where you were vaccinated. 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.

Digital health or vaccine passports are expected to be optional and will likely be leveraged in the travel industry and other large gatherings, such as sporting events. It’s still a bit early — and health passports aren’t universal — but we can look at the present to get a sense of what may be required in the future.

Related: You finally got vaccinated: Here’s what you’ll need for a digital health passport

Many people are thinking about traveling or have already booked trips for 2021 and 2022. But the travel landscape looks a lot different now than it did last March when many people last traveled. You will likely need to prove you have been vaccinated at some point in the future — particularly if you want to travel to specific locations. 

As destinations reopen to vaccinated travelers, new technology has made it easier to avoid long quarantines or expensive testing requirements, which means you’ll want to use a vaccine passport to make your travel a little easier. 

Featured image courtesy of Clear

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