What you need to know about Hawaii’s second vaccine passport

Sep 13, 2021

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You can love them or hate them, but vaccine passports are increasingly being used to prove immunization status to travel and visit indoor venues such as restaurants.

The United States uses a paper card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prove that people have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Obviously, that can become a problem when it comes to travel for several reasons, such as the potential for fraud or losing your card.

But several states have vaccine passport programs that allow people to show their vaccination status on their cell phones. And vaccine passports are becoming more widely adopted by airlines and international destinations, especially as it’s getting harder to travel if you’re unvaccinated.

Now, Hawaii has just launched a new vaccine passport, called the Hawaii Smart Health Card. The program already appears to be popular: 20,000 people signed up on the first day. Here’s what you need to know about the Hawaii Smart Health Card.

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What is the Hawaii Smart Health Card?

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Hawaii’s Smart Health Card is a form of digital proof to access businesses and venues with COVID-19 vaccination requirements. If you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine in the state of Hawaii, you can use the Smart Health Card if it’s been 14 days since your last dose.

“The digital Health Card supports counties that require proof of vaccination at certain businesses and venues,” said Hawaii Gov. David Ige. “It’s another step toward protecting the health and safety of our residents and visitors, while also balancing the need to support local businesses and Hawaii’s economy.”

Who can use the card?

The program is only available to people vaccinated in Hawaii, so you can’t use the program just yet if you were vaccinated elsewhere. According to a FAQ explaining the program, Smart Health Cards may be used in other states that issue or permit them.

There’s no word if Hawaii will expand the Smart Health Card to other states, but the state says people not vaccinated in Hawaii can present a hard copy of a vaccination document as proof. But if you’re worried about proving your vaccination status, especially if you live in a state like New York, both states use a similar program.

“Any restaurant that is looking at verifying Hawaii vaccinations will also probably be able to verify California and New York vaccinations as they use the SMART Health Card standard,” Ige said.

According to a statement announcing the program, eligible people can register by creating an account in the Safe Travels Digital Platform and navigating to the Smart Health Card section. You’ll be required to upload a photo of your vaccination card and then enter your vaccination information. Once your information is validated, you’ll receive a QR code that can be used to enter businesses with vaccination requirements.

What restrictions are in place in Hawaii?

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Hawaii has added several restrictions to combat the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus.

Things are so dire in the state that Hawaii is considering denying medical care to some older patients if cases continue to rise. The state is experiencing its worst surge of COVID-19 cases yet and has asked tourists to stay away. Even with the warnings, travel continues, and indoor and outdoor activities are still allowed. But some islands have put restrictions on what unvaccinated people can do.

Oahu, for instance, now requires proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test to eat at restaurants and bars. All patrons over 12 eating indoors will only be permitted by showing proof of immunization or results of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of entry, as outlined in an emergency order. The guidance also applies to certain entertainment and recreational settings, including bowling alleys, movie theaters, museums and indoor gyms and fitness centers.

Maui also launched a similar program called “Safer Outside,” which also bars unvaccinated travelers from eating indoors and puts capacity restrictions on indoor and outdoor activities. According to KHON, no more than five people can gather indoors, and no more than 10 can gather outside. Commercial events with 50 or more people can reportedly apply for an exemption to the mandate.

Maui’s rule is more similar to New York City’s vaccination mandate, which says that only vaccinated diners can eat indoors and has no exception for those with a negative COVID-19 test. But, unlike Maui, the Big Apple has no restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings.

Doesn’t Hawaii already have a vaccine passport?

It’s important to note that the Smart Health Card is not the same as the state’s existing Safe Travelers program. That can seem confusing, but there are notable differences between the two.

For starters, the Smart Health Card, a vaccine passport, cannot be used for traveling to Hawaii: it’s only allowed to access venues with vaccination requirements. And it’s only available for people immunized in Hawaii. The program is also voluntary, even though the requirement to show proof of vaccination is not.

All travelers — residents or visitors — still need to register with the Safe Travels system before traveling to Hawaii. Unlike the Smart Health Card, Safe Travels is a mandatory program. The program requires travelers to present proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from a list of approved partner labs or face quarantine.

Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy

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