Digital Health Pass update

With the outbreak of COVID, digital Health Passes (sometimes called a “vaccine passport”) were developed to aid safe cross-border travel by verifying a person’s negative coronavirus test result and if they are fully vaccinated.

While various options are being developed, they all do about the same thing – digitally store vaccination records. Many passes generate corresponding QR codes that officials can scan to verify your vaccination status.

A variety of organisations have been busy developing digital health passes, but there is no standardisation across the world to date. As a result, travellers might need to use more than one digital health pass on a single trip, as each country and airline may recognise different passes.

The range of options can be confusing, so here we discuss the various options to help you make sense of what you need to consider when planning a trip.

Airline created passes

Airlines are at the front line of enforcing destination rules and verifying travel documents. To ease the verification process, various airlines are partnering with mobile apps. For example, American Airlines, British Airways, and other partner airlines use VeriFLY to certify and store vaccination status.

Multinational organisation passes

Other airlines are partnering with outside companies like the International Air Transport Association, which developed the IATA Travel Pass that’s used by more than 20 airlines, including Emirates and Virgin Atlantic. Other major airlines used the CommonPass, developed by the World Economic Forum and the Commons Project Foundation.

Integrated solutions

The most significant partnership is between Amadeus — a reservation system used by over 450 airlines — and IBM’s digital health passport solution called IBM Digital Health Pass. The health pass sends travellers a QR code that can be scanned on a mobile phone or printed. The app also tracks requirements in each country which relieves airline employees from the burden.

What about the future?

Various countries have also launched initiatives to introduce government-endorsed electronic vaccine passes. But all said, the level of recognition of the different digital health pass (DHP) offerings varies, and many solutions still have some way to go in their development and roll-out.

The World Health Organization (WHO) still does not support requiring vaccination passports for travel because of equity concerns. It is working with numerous entities to establish standards and for a possible globally recognised digital vaccination certificate.

With the patchwork of health passes, lack of global standards, and COVID-19 travel restrictions recently lifted around the world, the question is, will digital health passes remain?  

One thing is certain, with the unpredictability of COVID-era travel, your destination’s procedures could be tossed or get more rigid at any given time. For up-to-date information on COVID-19 travel regulations, visit our Information Hub before booking your next international business trip.