What's a Digital Health Passport, and Will I Need One?
As more and more people worldwide receive the Covid-19 vaccine, they’re turning their attention to making travel plans, satisfying the cabin fever caused by quarantine.
A key part of jumpstarting and streamlining travel moving forward will be the digital health passport: a smartphone app or part of your digital wallet that provides documentation of your vaccination against and negative tests for the coronavirus.
While the digital health passport is expected to be optional in some public settings, it’s likely to be widely used for travel. You may need it, for example, to enter certain countries; to take certain cruises or tours; to fly on certain airlines internationally; and even to stay at certain hotels. So the short answer is: yes, you will need one if you want to travel more easily in the months and years to come.
Many governments, including the United States, are already in the process of assessing the feasibility of digital passports, and the European Union recently greenlighted a plan for a “digital green pass” that would allow vaccinated travelers to bypass EU nations’ existing travel restrictions regarding mandatory quarantines and coronavirus testing. A standardized electronic system will take some time to develop, but many are hoping that the digital health passport will be live in time for summer travel. Here’s everything you need to know about how to prepare now so that you can get your digital health passport when the option becomes available to you.
How Can I Prepare?
After getting vaccinated in the US, you may receive a paper card called the Covid-19 Vaccination Record Card, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It shows what vaccine you received, as well as where and when you received it. It’s important not to lose your vaccination card! Treat it like a driver’s license or passport, and keep it safe.
When the digital health passport becomes available, on some platforms—such as IATA’s Travel Pass—you may be able to take a photograph of your vaccination card to be verified against your digital credentials. If you’ve misplaced your vaccination card, all is not lost! The CDC recommends that your vaccination status be updated in your patient medical records, and vaccine providers are required to report your vaccination status to the state within 72 hours. So you may be able to verify your vaccination status with your vaccine provider or the state in which you received it.
Similarly, you’ll want to keep safe your negative test results for or records of successful recovery from coronavirus. Some destinations require a negative test prior to arrival, and right now, you need a negative test to fly into the US from abroad. If your testing facility offers results in hard copy or online, rather than by phone, these results may be able to be imported into your digital health passport.
What Platform Options Will I Have?
Technology companies, trade groups, and nonprofit foundations around the world are currently in the process of building and testing their own versions of a digital health passport. The common feature of all of them is allowing verified labs and testing centers to securely share coronavirus-related medical information so that travelers can prove their vaccination and testing status when needed. While it’s not clear yet how verification will be standardized in the US or worldwide, what is clear is that the travel industry will need to agree on standards that span the various platforms in development, meaning that users will ultimately choose the app that suits them best. Collectives like the Good Health Pass Collaborative and the COVID-19 Credentials Initiative are working to build consensus among providers regarding universal standards for how all platforms will operate.
The platforms currently in development include: • The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Travel Pass • VST Enterprises’ V-Health Passport • Daon’s VeriFLY • The Commons Project Foundation’s CommonPass • Clear’s Health Pass • IBM’s Digital Health Pass
If all of this seems overwhelming, keep in mind that the idea of a vaccination passport is not new. For decades, people traveling to certain countries have carried the International Certificate of Vaccination, often called the “yellow card,” to prove vaccination against diseases like yellow fever, malaria, diphtheria, rubella, and cholera. What’s new with coronavirus is the digital component, intended to streamline the travel process and to be more secure than hard-copy documentation.
While the digital health passport faces challenges in its creation and implementation over the coming months, I’ll be here to guide you every step of the way so that you can get back to traveling like you did before the pandemic. As always, I’m wishing you safe, smooth, and digitally-optimized travels!
The impulse of travel is one of the
hopeful symptoms of life.