For the past few months, the world has seen small glimpses of hope that we can return to some sense of normal. Global citizens have lived with worry and the unknowns that come with a pandemic that has killed millions and millions of people — and over 500,000 Americans alone. As the COVID-19 vaccine has rolled out globally and months and months of staying at home with no end in sight, there might be a light at the end of a tunnel. It’s a welcome shift, and a lot of it has to do with the vaccine rollout itself. But vaccines alone won’t be a fast-pass to normalcy. And some local governments are considering rolling out “vaccine passports,” which could show proof that people have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.
What is A Vaccine Passport?
According to The Washington Post, the Biden administration has been working closely with private companies to develop “vaccine passports.” The hope is to standardize how people can show proof that they’ve been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. In theory, these credentials will allow certain business sectors to open up – like cruise lines, concert and event venues, and sports – where large people can gather safely if they’ve been inoculated.
Given Biden and his administration have made promises that the nation will begin to return to some sense of normal by the time summer rolls around, vaccine passports have been a topic of debate and discussion. And it looks like they’re really going to be a thing.
What States Have Rolled Out Vaccine Passports?
According to US Today, New York will be rolling out its own vaccine passport program on April 2, 2021. The vaccine passport, which is being called the Excelsior Pass, is the first in the United States where citizens will be able to pull up a code on their phone or a printout that will prove they’ve been vaccinated. Or that they’ve recently tested negative for the virus.
The Excelsior pass “will be useful first at large-scale venues like Madison Square Garden, but next week will be accepted at dozens of event, arts, and entertainment venues statewide,” the publication reports. “It already enables people to increase the size of a wedding, party, or other catered event.”
The Excelsior pass will be an app people can download to their phone. It will work similarly to an airline boarding pass. Tied to the person’s name, date of birth, zip code, and personal questions, people will be able to prove their immunizations or negative tests on the spot.
Currently, companies are relying on people’s vaccination cards to prove immunization. However, moving away from the paper proof into digital will allow easier access to those details and less likely to lose, like a piece of paper.
But There Are Privacy — And Logistical — Issues With Passports
While the idea of a passport via an app sounds easy enough, it’s actually quite complicated. According to The Washington Post, there are currently at least 17 different initiatives in development for a vaccine passport, both in the United States and around the world.
Add to that the complexities of making sure access to the app is available for all, while at the same time keeping health and data privacy laws at the forefront of the roll-out, and it gets confusing quickly. There are a lot of legalities that have to be sorted and there are already signs that forgery is going to be a concern. Fake CDC vaccination cards have been found across several sites like eBay and Craigslist, selling for up to $200, USA Today reports.
Alternatives to an app are also being discussed. This includes the potential of adding an immunization record to driver’s licenses, similar to how organ donors are noted on their cards in several states.
All in all, it sounds like we are going to have some form of vaccine passport. However, it’s complicated. And the vaccine passport is going to take some time.