16 February 2021
Phillipa Martin

What is a COVID vaccine passport?

A COVID vaccine passport (or certificate) has been discussed in many countries and regions, including the EU, the US and Australia. Quite simply, a COVID vaccine passport or certificate is proof that someone coming into a region’s borders has been vaccinated against COVID. This means that the chance they have or are carrying COVID is much lower. 

Last month, the EU Commission President insisted vaccination passports were essential. Iceland led the way, as the first EU country to provide a certificate to citizens who’d received two doses of the vaccine. The certificate also allows them to re-enter the country without testing and/or quarantine. And last week during a BBC interview, ex British Prime Minister Tony Blair talked about the necessity for vaccination passports so travel could resume and to get back to ‘life as we knew it’.   

Why a vaccine passport? 

A vaccine passport will provide reassurance at borders that people coming into a country (whether they’re tourists or returning home) aren’t likely to be carrying coronavirus and therefore don’t pose a risk of spreading COVID. 

Digital COVID vaccine passports

Digital vaccine passports, most likely on people’s phones, will provide a quick and easy way to show proof of vaccination. Denmark plans to have a basic digital passport set up by the end of this month, and Sweden is looking at the end of June (source: Healthcare IT News). According to a Forbes article on digital passports, Denmark and Sweden would also use the digital passports internally, allowing citizens to go out for dinner and go to large events like concerts and festivals using their digital vaccination passports. 

Australia is also looking at digital vaccination passports. In an ABC Radio National interview, Stuart Robert, the Minister for Government Services, said Australia’s system would use the existing immunisation register, coupled with the Medicare Express Plus app via myGov. The immunisation certificate can be dropped into a digital wallet or printed.  

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also started work on its Travel Pass initiative/app. This is being set up as a global tool to help reopen borders. 

No doubt more and more countries will announce digital vaccination passport programs in the coming months as vaccination rates continue to rise. 

Salsa Digital’s take

While wreaking havoc across the globe, COVID has led to significant digital transformation, especially digital transformation in government. The creation of digital COVID vaccine passports is one of many areas where governments’ use of technology has been fast-tracked as we try to fight the global pandemic. Over the coming months we’ll see more countries setting up digital COVID vaccine passports, or perhaps a globally standardised passport will gain traction.

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