Digital Health Passports: What You Need to Know as a Traveler

It’s undeniable that COVID-19 has changed the world in many ways and the travel industry has created new standards and policies as a result. Many states require that you provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test once you arrive, or a period of quarantine in its place. One new change you’ll want to know about is digital health passports. Let’s take a look at what they are and how they may affect you should you choose to travel by plane.

What is a digital health passport?

A health passport, also called a vaccine passport, is an immunization record proving that you have been inoculated against a virus or disease. Until recently, they have always been issued on paper only. Individuals who get the COVID-19 vaccine receive this version from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is known as the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card. It shows your name, date of birth, and medical record number, and information on when each dose was administered, the manufacturer of the dose, and the healthcare professional or clinic that administered it. The idea is that you would be able to show your digital health passport on your phone or share your details digitally as needed (for instance, when you check in for a flight online).

What are the advantages of having digital health passports?

There have been people who bought fake negative COVID test results in order to be able to travel. This was a bit easier to do because the information was on paper. Having a digital version of the health passport will help cut down on this type of fraud. In addition, it will be helpful in case you lose the paper version or it gets damaged. Also, having a digital version ensures you always have your records even if your paper document gets misplaced or stolen. Finally, it’ll be another way to streamline the travel experience especially for those who like to check in online before their flight. Having the digital version of your records ensures you can do that without having to still go the airport and have to wait in a line to show your records in person.

What happens next?

Currently, there are many organizations working on creating digital health passports. In November of 2020, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that it was working on creating the IATA Travel Pass. This would include a traveler’s test and vaccination certificates. Health apps like CommonPass, ICC AOKpass and VeriFLY are also becoming popular apps for airlines to use to ensure passengers can present their digital health passport in a secure and standardized way. At the present, there is still not one method or app that is being used across the board by every travel entity and no one standard set in place for all countries. Digital health passports are not yet accepted everywhere but a growing number of airlines and countries are working together to make them more commonplace. In fact, officially signed on to accept digital health passports via the platform, CommonPass. However, the travel industry does believe that most countries will recognize and accept multiple platforms as digital health passports.

How can we ensure that the data will be safe?

Some of the platforms are using blockchain technology which ensures that is no central database one could hack into to steal data. VeriFly is using biometric authentication to safeguard against any data threats. There is still quite a bit to consider and all organizations are hard at work trying to find a solution that will ensure that travelers are comfortable with using the technology and that it will be safe for them to do so..

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