Vaccine Passport: Understanding the Digital Pass for International Travel and why world is opposing it?

Citizens in multiple countries are staging protests against the implementation of Vaccine Passport, a digital repository of your vaccination certifcate and other health documents for easy travel between countries. 

Vaccine Passport: Understanding the Digital Pass for International Travel and why world is opposing it?
Covid-19 vaccine passport. (Representational image)

There have been very few global incidences that altered the functioning of the world and created as much havoc as COVID-19 did in the recent past. While almost every other industry faced a slump during the pandemic, the travel industry or more specifically aviation sector took a huge blow, so much so that experts are anticipating that we can only reach pre-pandemic levels of air travel by 2023. 

With almost all countries stopping international flights to contain the spread of the virus, and only a few allowing international travel even after 2 years of outbreak, there seems to be no respite for the industry to bounce back. 

There is, however, still a gleam of hope as many countries, independent agencies and airlines are looking for ways to make air travel easier and more accessible. One of the recent trends emerging globally is called the COVID-19 Passport or Vaccine Passport, which has been receiving flak off late from various countries and travellers. 

A vaccine Passport is a travel pass of sorts that holds all the vaccinations and medical records for a hassle-free international travel experience since every country has their own way of certifying its citizens. So what is this travel pass/ COVID-19 passport and why is getting so much negativity, we answer your frequently asked questions-

What is a Vaccine Passport?

A Vaccine Passport is by enlarge a fancy term used for a mobile app to help passengers easily and securely manage their health documents needed for travel in line with the government's policy for either COVID-19 testing or vaccine information. A Travel Pass enables passengers to create a ‘digital footprint' that helps the destination country to verify any traveller's pre-travel test or vaccination certificate. 

Many governments are seeing these passports as a one-stop solution for easily managing traveller inflow in their countries. While many say a Travel Pass discriminates against the freedom of citizens. All in all, the app enables travellers to manage all travel documentation digitally for a seamless travel experience. 

Origin of Travel Pass

The origin of the Vaccine Passports can be traced back to the Yellow Fever. At the time of the fever, it was mandatory to carry a separate vaccination certificate called 'Yellow Card'. This protocol was rolled 88 years ago by the first International Certificate of Inoculation and Vaccination established by the International Sanitary Convention for Aerial Navigation in 1933 in The Hague, Netherlands, and then later adopted by the World Health Organisation. 

Come to think of it, the modern-day Travel Pass is essentially a digital form of a Yellow Card. The first mass appeal to implement the COVID-19 passport was made by United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General, UNWTO called for the global adoption of vaccination passports for safe resumption of international travel.

Who has rolled out the Vaccine Passport?

Various countries, independent bodies and airline companies have been pitching for the Vaccine Passports and some have already implemented the same. Here's a brief list - 

China: China was the first country in the Asia Pacific to issue a COVID-19 certificate for its citizens, making them eligible for travel.

Iceland: The Nordic state became the first country to issue vaccination certificates in 2020. All the citizens who have received two doses of vaccine are now eligible for a digital certificate.

Israel: Israel’s health ministry unveiled a Green Passport that enables people who are already vaccinated to travel and be part of large gatherings. The passport is both digital and physical.

IATA: World Health Organisation (WHO) commissioned The International Air Transport Association (IATA) to develop a tamper-proof vaccine passport called the IATA Travel Pass. 

Emirates: Emirates has partnered with IATA to roll out a mobile application to create a ‘digital passport and became the first company globally to implement it. 

CommonPass: CommonPass is being launched by The Commons Project, The World Economic Forum and a coalition of public and private partners. Almost 2000 airports under the Airport Council International has signed on to use CommonPass.

Challenges Faced

The COVID-19 passport implementation is facing a roadblock in multiple countries. While governments are eager to implement it sooner than ever, citizens and support groups are staging protests against the pass. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has branded mandatory Vaccine Passport ‘discriminatory’. WTTC says testing travellers before travel to prove they are Covid-free is a better solution.

“The most vulnerable groups should be prioritised, a blanket vaccination requirement would simply discriminate against non-vulnerable groups, such as Generation X, Z and Millennials, who should be able to travel with proof of a negative COVID test,” Gloria Guevara, WTTC President and CEO, said.

In countries like Italy, Canada, massive protests are being staged against the government over the implementation of the passport. 

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