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Covid Vaccine Passports - A perfect storm

Did you ever think you would live to see a day where you had to show medical paperwork to travel? We all know that you always need a current form of government ID to fly, rent a car, and even stay in many hotels. You need to go a step further to travel out of the country and possess a passport. This isn't anything new, and after 9/11, the importance of this identification became more critical and is taken a lot more seriously, as it should be.

But now, the goalposts have moved even farther away, and you need to show vaccine passports or identification to visit some countries, go to some restaurants, gyms, and large gathering entertainment venues in some states. The two states with the strictest rules right now are New York City and many cities in California. There is much debate about this subject, and I don't see it ending anytime soon, but it is not something I'm going to tackle in this blog post.

These #mandates are placing a lot of #stress in the system for travelers and those being asked to oversee these rules. Currently, there is not one "passport" system, and with so many variations of "proof" of #vaccination, it is causing a lot of frustration. In addition, what was "fully vaccinated" a month ago is no longer "fully vaccinated" today. In fact, Isreal took back its vaccine "green pass" from over two million people because they were adding another #booster to be considered fully vaccinated.

The trouble is that these passes are not interoperable. Most look the same: a QR code on a smartphone or piece of paper. Yet even scanning the codes can be a problem. Different verifier apps read different passes. Once scanned, the codes serve up widely varying information, depending on the national or local health systems or attitudes about privacy. Some vaccine passports, like the CommonPass used in parts of America, share raw data on vaccination status. Others, like the one issued by the NHS, yield only a symbol, a tick or across. And the rules of the game are not fixed. During a surge of infections this month, Israel yanked its "green pass" from 2m people who had not yet received booster jabs.

The administrative, commercial and even psychological burdens are obvious at #airports. Traveler numbers have dropped between 85% and 90%, yet reaching the gate has become a more demanding obstacle course than ever. Queues lengthen as anxious travelers fumble for slips of paper and QR codes. Officials struggle to keep track of which vaccines state regulators have approved and how long test results are valid for which destinations. As Corneel Koster, chief customer and operating officer at Virgin Atlantic, an airline, puts it: "It's kind of a jungle out there."

Even among countries with relatively high vaccination rates, support for vaccine passports varies, from 52% in Hungary to 84% in Britain (see chart). In India people are used to sharing their fingerprints and iris scans as part of the Aadhaar biometric id system. Yet many, like Debjani Mazumder, a publishing executive in Delhi, worry about pharmaceutical companies and insurers getting hold of their health records. "I feel like a guinea pig," Ms Mazumder says.

Finally, there are huge gaps in #vaccine availability in poor nations. For example, "More than three-quarters of people in Denmark, Singapore, and Qatar are fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University. Yet less than 1% of those in Ethiopia and Uganda are." There is also the issue of HIPPA and your health privacy rights and signature storage.

Creating a repository of all trusted signatures is an expensive and politically fraught task. Countries with a national health service, like Britain, have just one issuer. But in America, there are around 300, including state governments, hospitals, and pharmacies.

What comes next is anybody's guess. If you are flying domestically, you do not need a vaccine passport to get on a plane for domestic travel. You do need a vaccine passport or proof to get into the United States from other countries and even if you are considered fully vaccinated you need a covid-19 test 72 hours before travel or if you are within 90 days of recovering from Covid, you need to show the positive test along with a doctors note. See the CDC rules below. Please be safe and research state, city. and country-specific requirements before you travel.


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