Starting later this month, the US will require international air passengers to show evidence of a recent negative COVID-19 test or proof that they have recently recovered from the disease. Alternatively, now that COVID-19 vaccines are being administered, airlines may soon allow you to fly if you can confirm that you've been immunized.
Several health and tech organizations have teamed up to develop a system that would allow people to receive an encrypted copy of your vaccination status that you can store in a digital wallet on your phone. Members of the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI) include Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce and the Mayo Clinic.
The group is hoping to provide access to vaccination records through the SMART Health Cards framework. People without smartphones could receive a printout of a QR code that contains a verifiable vaccine record.
Health officials in the US are issuing paper record cards to people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. However, that isn't necessarily proof that someone has been immunized, as it's possible to spoof those cards.
Some airports and airlines are testing a health passport app from the Commons Project, which is a VCI member. Travelers will be able to board certain international flights if they obtain a negative test result from their health providers and receive a confirmation code through the CommonPass app. As The New York Times notes, the VCI approach would work in a similar way for vaccine records.
While being able to verify COVID-19 vaccinations could be critical in our return to normality from lockdowns and social distancing, health passport apps may prove a thorny issue. If airlines or employers make it mandatory to show proof of taking the vaccine, people who choose not to do so could be locked out of travel or returning to work.