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The Latest on Digital Health Passports for Business Travel

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Current as of 3/4/21

A few weeks ago we explored the idea of digital vaccine - or health - passports as a factor in the return to international travel. Now President Biden recently signed an Executive Order that requires all incoming passengers to the US to have a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of departure. With that news and the COVID vaccine rollout underway, it appears that digital health passports could play a vital role in returning to international travel. At the very least, conversations around them have certainly been pushed to the forefront. 

Recently vaccine passports have become a more global conversation. Last week, the EU met to discuss putting a vaccine passport program in place in hopes to jumpstart tourism by this summer. The EU is seemingly split on this type of program, citing worries of vaccine inequality and privacy concerns. Countries who rely heavily on tourism, such as Greece and Spain, have been outspoken advocates for a program to be put into place sooner rather than later. In fact, Greece and Cyprus have already agreed to admit Covid-negative Israeli tourists this summer so long as they can prove their negative status with an Israeli digital certificate. Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis is hoping a similar deal could be worked out with the UK.

As conversations around vaccine and digital health passports continue, here’s what you should know about digital vaccine passports and what they mean for the return to travel.

What is a digital health passport and how do they work?

A digital health or vaccine passport holds information related to your health, such as your vaccination records and/or COVID-19 test results. Right now, if you receive the COVID vaccine, you’ll also receive a card that tells you key facts about your vaccination, including the date you received it and the type you received (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, etc). Consider a digital health passport the “online” version of that card. 

To access their digital health passport, travelers will need to download an app on their phone. The app will then be used to retrieve virus test results and immunizations directly from the traveler’s health provider. Some apps like CommonPass take it a step further and actually notify travelers of local travel requirements for any given itinerary - like proof of a negative COVID test - and then provide and verify the steps necessary to meet those requirements, enabling them to board international flights.

How do I get one and when will I use it?

There are currently a few versions of digital health passports in development, including AOKpass and CommonPass - IATA, Clear, IBM, and others have their own versions of the technology in the works too. Travelers at airports in Italy and France are already testing AOKpass and JetBlue and United Airlines are trialing CommonPass on specific international routes.

While there’s no standardized plan for integration of this tech into the normal travel process just yet, it’s likely that you’d see it required at check-in and before boarding at airports, and at check-in at hotels.

There are still a lot of questions surrounding digital health passports, and they include important considerations like privacy and data protection. While we don’t have all the answers just yet, we’ll be keeping a close eye on it. We look forward to helping you get back on the road to continue building your businesses as soon as possible. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions about digital health passports and what they might mean for you or your travelers - our team is ready to help.

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