The term “vaccine passport” has been floating around a lot lately. But what, exactly, does this buzzword mean and what does it have to do with you? While vaccine passports aren’t required in most places yet, that’s likely to change very soon. Here, we dive into what vaccine passports are, how they work, why you’ll probably need to get one in the near future, and more.
WHAT ARE THEY?:
Simply put, vaccine passports are proof of vaccination against a certain vaccine preventable illness, such as COVID-19. Vaccine passports have been proposed as a way to safely return to normal and reopen travel, businesses, various services and the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic by requiring proof COVID-19 immunization for customers, travelers, event attendees, students, etc.
HOW DO THEY WORK?:
At their core, vaccine passports can be any form of proof of immunization against COVID-19. So according to that definition, the small paper cards provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that you receive when you get your COVID-19 vaccine could technically be considered a vaccine passport. However, when most people speak of vaccine passports, this isn’t what they’re referring to.
Given today’s modern environment and technology, most vaccine passports will be digital. There are a lot of different apps and programs currently in the works that digitally verify proof of COVID-19 immunization. Among these vaccine passport programs is MyIR Mobile. Available in select states, you can create a free account on myirmobile.com, which provides its users with free, 24/7 access to their official immunization records. STChealth also has a consumer access network in the works. Powered by STChealth’s consumer access network, select vaccine passport apps will be able to provide users with their official, digital COVID-19 records.
So how are these vaccine passport programs able to share this information? They use official immunization information systems data and state health department data to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. This is the same data that is reported to the CDC when you get your coronavirus vaccine shot(s). Since there isn’t a global requirement or standard for COVID-19 vaccine passports, individual countries, states, governments and businesses have been left to determine how—and if—they want to require proof of COVID-19 immunization through vaccine passports—as well as what that proof entails.
THE HISTORY OF VACCINE PASSPORTS:
While they may sound new, vaccine passports are actually not a novel concept. After the smallpox vaccine was invented, travelers in the 20th century were required to prove they had been vaccinated for the disease—either through certificates of vaccination, or by showing their scars from getting the vaccine. Places of work, schools and other public places followed suit. Thanks to widespread vaccination efforts, smallpox was successfully eradicated in 1980.
Schools have long required certain immunizations for students, and in order to travel to certain countries, specific vaccinations are either required or strongly recommended. Historically, the most widely used vaccination card globally has been the International Certificate of Prophylaxis (often referred to as the “yellow card”). Among the list of vaccine preventable diseases that require either a yellow card or another form of a vaccine passport when entering certain countries are yellow fever, polio, meningococcal meningitis and, now, COVID-19. Thanks to the polio vaccine, the only remaining polio endemic countries are Afghanistan and Pakistan.
CAN STATES REQUIRE VACCINE PASSPORTS? WHAT ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES?:
Yes and yes! States can set their own requirements for vaccine passports/proof of COVID-19 vaccination both for travel and tourists, as well as for their own state residents. The same goes for individual countries.
While President Biden has stated he will not require vaccine passports on a federal level, there are initiatives in the works by his administration to help develop COVID-19 vaccine passport programs, credentials and requirement guidelines—though the choice whether or not to require COVID-19 vaccine passports will be left to individual states.
The state of New York recently made headlines as the first state in the U.S. to launch its own vaccine passport app, called “Excelsior Pass.” Other countries are also already enacting their own vaccine passport requirements. One example of this is Denmark, which launched its version of a COVID-19 vaccine passport via the aptly named “Coronapas.”
WILL I NEED ONE?
Love it or hate in, you’ll most likely need a COVID-19 vaccine passport in the near future—that is, if you want to have the option to go anywhere, or do anything.
Although COVID-19 vaccine passports are just beginning to be required in certain places, countries throughout the world and states throughout the U.S. are in the process of developing both vaccine passport programs and regulations. It’s possible individual businesses will opt to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination/immunity as well, even when not required by state, in order to decrease their risk of liability for COVID-19 illness outbreaks and to make it easier to avoid coronavirus outbreak related shutdowns.
HOW DO I GET A COVID-19 PASSPORT?:
As mentioned in the section titled “How Do They Work?”, several COVID-19 vaccine passport initiatives are currently in the works—and it could vary widely which vaccine passports are accepted where. However, MyIR Mobile is a great place to start not only for proof of COVID-19 vaccination, but for accessing your official immunization records in general (it’s free too).