While the vaccination programs against COVID-19 advance at different rates in various countries of the world, governments, national and international agencies, airlines, as well as companies, work on different initiatives to ease restrictions and allow cross-border travels globally. One of those that has been debated for a few months and that is gaining strength every day to the point of being a reality, is the “vaccination passports” or digital “health passports”, which, in the first instance, will certify and they will allow an expedited verification of the health data of the travelers in the different jurisdictions.
Vaccination passports have the initial objective of facilitating travel by establishing verification standards, which are expected to be aligned worldwide, and based on them, the traveler’s health data and vaccination records can be verified, particularly against COVID-19. Access to this type of information can be obtained on a mobile device from the person or websites of the authorities involved.
Currently there are several initiatives against the development and implementation of vaccination passports by countries such as Israel, Sweden and Denmark. The Jewish State became the first to implement this mechanism a couple of weeks ago, taking advantage of its high vaccination rate. Vaccinated people can download an application that shows their Green Pass which would be required to have access, for example, to different cultural or sporting events.
However, experts report that it is still too early to be able to establish with certainty how well this program will work in practice.
Other initiatives, which have been increasing, are those of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) through the Travel Pass application. This app will present the COVID-19 test results, as well as national entry and vaccination requirements. The Travel Pass app will link to an electronic copy of the passenger’s passport to confirm identity and medical records. Similarly, several airlines are testing other digital applications, such as Yoti, which is used by Virgin Atlantic crew members and pilots to confirm their status against the COVID-19 test, VeriFLY used by American Airlines, Smart Yellow Card by part of the World Health Organization, AOKpass that implemented the International Chamber of Commerce, IBM Digital Pass or the CommonPass of the World Economic Forum and Commons Project.
There are many challenges not only for the creation but for the implementation of these types of tools. For example, from a technological perspective, it took several decades to develop the passport that we have today with biometric information. If we also look at it from an ethical, social, and legal perspective, the implications are significant. Selecting people between vaccinated and unvaccinated raises enormous questions, especially in a world with so much inequality. Similarly, the management of people’s data processing raises a lot of concerns since it not only collects sensitive information, but different risks could arise accessing to this information. That is why it is urgent to adopt a global approach to address this issue in our new normal.