Eager to avoid losing another summer of holiday income, the cause of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union, some Asian governments and the airline industry are trying to develop so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports. to help start international travel.
They are working on systems that will enable travelers to use mobile phone applications to prove they have been vaccinated, which can help them avoid the many quarantine requirements at their destinations.
But numerous efforts underscore the lack of a central international system to electronically verify vaccination status. The projects are also facing technical challenges of working together, while issues about vaccine privacy and inequality remain.
Vaccination passports would add another layer of digital to the myriad of existing coronavirus health and contact tracking applications, as many states, including the United States itself, are involved. Their use within the country to reopen local economies has been hotly debated, with much opposition to demands regarding cafes, concerts and sporting events. However, there is a greater tendency for them to be used for international travel, especially as countries like Iceland, which opened its borders to vaccinated visitors, and other countries like Saudi Arabia, are starting to allow vaccinated citizens to travel abroad. The EU decision last week to open its countries’ borders to fully vaccinated travelers further increases the urgency of the issue.
The first part of a vaccination passport is the official register or the approved electronic immunization register of its user.
The European Union, China and Japan are working to have their digital vaccination certificates for cross-border travel. The UK, meanwhile, last week updated its National Health Service app to enable fully vaccinated users to test their status when traveling abroad, which is a easing of travel rules.
What is an EU vaccination passport?
Testing for the EU digital certificate is under way, which will also confirm the test results for COVID-19, or recovery from the virus, and is set to be released by the end of June, enabling them to be reunited with friends and relatives, residents living in 30 European countries. But it is still unclear where and how exactly EU travelers’ certificates, which do not have checkpoints within the borders, will be checked. Officials in Brussels say this will depend on each country specifically. The idea is for travelers to put a QR code on their phones so that they can be scanned, say at an airport or train station, using an official verification app that checks based on national data, through a “gateway “technical introduction” of the EU.
The World Health Organization does not recommend vaccination testing as a requirement for international travel, noting the unequal distribution of vaccines, although temporary guidelines for developing a “Smart Vaccination Certificate” are advised.
Travelers also need an app for their smartphones to eventually have official vaccination certificates.
The EU project includes open source technology, which can be used by European countries to build their official mobile portfolios. The International Transport Association, an airline industry group, has its own IATA Travel Pass smartphones, which are registered with airlines such as Qantas, Japan Airlines, Emirates, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Another rival attempt with him, the Common Pass, has registered by capturing carriers like Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, United and Lufthansa.
Travelers can now use applications to verify that their COVID-19 scores are acceptable at their destinations. The Travel Pass and Common Pass are so far only available to airline passengers who use them. Both can also be integrated into airline travel applications, so users can verify their vaccine status when checked online. Also, both are expected to work with EU certificates. The Common Pass says users will be able to import vaccine credentials by mid-June.
What travelers want
Business travelers like Richard Fogg, the British public relations executive, welcome vaccine passports. Fogg’s firm cut plans to attend a major telecom trade show in Barcelona next month, given quarantine rules for people returning to the UK.
“Those ten days of quarantine will have negative business implications – there is no other way,” Fogg said, acknowledging concerns about data privacy.
Eymeric Segard, chief executive of the Geneva-based private jet Lunajets broker, noted that passengers are already handing out passports with personal data upon arrival.
“You know that personally, I would be happy to tell anyone, yes, I am vaccinated or not I am not vaccinated,” he said, adding that vaccine passports would help avoid the nightmare. logistics ”of COVID-19 evidence, on the faces of Europeans when visiting other EU countries.
What about counterfeits?
The fake COVID-19 document sold by fraudsters has been a problem during the pandemic, but its developers say the digital versions have safeguards that make them difficult to counterfeit.
IATA says it does not verify test results or vaccination status, but acts as a channel for registered laboratories to securely send those details to travelers whose identities the application can match to the person being tested or vaccinated . The app scans the face of a traveler using the phone camera and approaches it with biometric passport details and has controls to prevent someone else from using his identity.
Security and privacy
Vaccination passports are a polarizing topic, with online discussions highlighting unfounded fears that they will be used to control people, restrict freedom and violate privacy. The developers of these passports emphasize that the minimum personal data is kept on the phones and that the only thing that is transmitted are the encryption keys that allow the exchange of information securely.
“If done as it seems, it does not add an extra level of privacy risk because it is simply setting a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ credit status,” said Kevin Trilli, chief product officer at the ID verification company. , Onfido, which is working on vaccination card technology.
The question also arises as to how well the different vaccine credential systems will work and whether countries will recognize each other’s certificates. The UK Government has warned that currently, not many countries accept proof of vaccination from travelers.
“You may not have an interactive system on day zero, but over time the bottlenecks will be seen and processed, which helped lay the groundwork for the next pandemic,” Trilli said.
But what about people who do not have smartphones? Or for families who do not have technological equipment for each member? IATA and EU officials say they are working on solutions, including paper-based options.