Governments around the world are exploring the potential use of vaccine passports as a way of reopening the economy by identifying those protected against the coronavirus.

Vaccine Passports:

  • A vaccine passport is an e-certificate that stores and records jabs and Covid-19 test status.
  • It can be kept in a smartphone app or in other digital formats.
  • Its contents can be flashed at security checkpoints when people travel across borders.
  • The idea is modelled on the proof of vaccination that several countries required even before the pandemic.
  • Travellers from many African countries to the USA or India are required to submit proof that they have been vaccinated against diseases such as yellow fever.
  • In February 2021, Israel became the first country to introduce a certification system that allows those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to access certain facilities and events.

Function of Vaccine Passports:

  • Will digitise vaccination records across countries.
  • Supposed to function as proof that the holder has been vaccinated against Covid-19 and is, therefore, safe.

Potential Beneficiary of the Vaccine Passports:

  • The primary benefit will be to the tourism and the hospitality industries, which are both seen as being at the heart of Covid-19 spread and are the worst hit by the pandemic.
  • The international air travel, which suffered massively because of the outbreak.

Similar Initiative:

  • Several associations and non-profits have been issuing their own versions for international travel
  • The global trade body representing airlines (The International Air Transport Association) is developing an app called IATA Travel Pass that will provide airlines and other aviation industry stakeholders with a common platform to check for the proof of vaccination and its validity.
  • Non-profit Commons Project has been trying out an app called CommonPass, which contains a passenger’s vaccination record.

Concerns Raised in Instituting Vaccine Passport:

WHO’s Stand:

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) is against the introduction of Covid-19 vaccination proofs as a requirement for international travel.
  • There are still critical unknown facts regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission.
  • The major difficulty in implementation will be the lack of uniformity across jurisdictions in requirement and issuance of proofs of vaccination.
  • Preferential vaccination of travellers could result in inadequate supplies of vaccines for priority populations considered at high risk of severe Covid-19 disease.
  • Introducing a requirement of vaccination as a condition for travel has the potential to hinder equitable global access to a limited vaccine supply and would be unlikely to maximize the benefits of vaccination for individual societies and overall global health.
  • Experts argue that vaccine passports, in any form, might make travel inequitable. Adoption of these digital passports can perpetuate discrimination and inequality, increasing the divide between socioeconomic groups.
  • Rich countries that have already bought millions of doses from pharmaceutical companies are ahead in the race.
  • The poorer nations may have to wait for months, if not years, to start inoculations.
  • This means that if vaccine passports become a norm, then these lower-income nations will lose out on the advantage.
  • It will lead to exclusion of the younger generation who would be last in line to be vaccinated.


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