The need for digital vaccination passports is growing as borders are reopened

International visitors with vaccination certificates and negative Covid-19 test results can enter the U.S. after 18 months of restrictions.


In a week since international travelers were welcomed back to the United States, airlines, nonprofit organizations and travel groups finally saw an increase in the number of digital healthcare that they had hoped the travelers would use since their launch.

American Airlines has seen a nearly 10 percent increase in usage of its VeriFLY in-flight application from 8 Nov. removed from U.S. entry restrictions, said female spokeswoman Rachel Warner. Technology research company Apptopia has seen a 5 percent increase in downloads for this type of apps since the week before the travel ban was lifted, according to Thomas Grant, director of equity research company.

Experts in the tourism industry are recommending this new flood of international tourists.

"With the re-opening of international borders, it places a responsibility on individuals to be able to prove [their vaccination status]," said Dakota Gruener, senior director at ID2020, a non-profit group that supports digital identification. "Airports have to work for more people to carry much lower travel prices than before the epidemic because there are so many papers."

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It is news that digital applications and tourism professionals have relied on it to help restore the industry to its pre-epidemic capacity because they will process passengers faster.

"If we can continue to rely on handwritten, paper-based certificates or visually scanned certificates, it will be a slow process," Gruener said. "You will see backups and very long lines as you leave or arrive."

Vaccination applications have struggled to provide a product that cater for a variety of certificates and passports accepted by different countries.

Some European countries, for example, require citizens and citizens of the European Union to obtain an EU Digital Covid Certificate, or a Green Digital Certificate, in order to share any digital format or paper format with QR code. Australia uses an e-passport system called ICAO. India has issued more than 900 million vaccination certificates through its digital certification platform DIVOC (Infrastructure Digital for Vaccination Open Credentialing), according to the Linux Foundation Public Health, a non-profit organization that develops open source software to fight epidemics. Other countries in the Asia Pacific and Africa regions such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka are also considering this option.

That means the obligation to check the status of the vaccine falls on airlines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not state on its website what digital guarantees are accepted as each is used and adopted differently in different countries. Airlines are required to check policy records and match the name and date of birth to the passenger's passport. Vaccine provider, manufacturer and vaccination dates are also required as proof.

Some digital certificates have compatible flight verification apps to scan the world and verify authenticity. But according to Jenny Wanger, program director at Linux Foundation Public Health, the airlines are not really equipped to have authentication applications in all the different countries around the world.

"I would be surprised if they actually scanned these apps," Wanger said. “What they do is look at digital on a person's phone but take it as a paper card. So learning the app looks for the right word, the right dates, which shows that they are fully vaccinated, instead of partial vaccination. ”

Balancing app guarantees across borders is a big challenge. Biden officials say in April the federal government will not approve vaccination passports and has no plans to require them. So private companies and non-profit groups that build a global certification network hope that policymakers from around the world will measure up.

"Technology, policy and management must go hand in hand," Gruener said. "What we are seeing now is technology, and in some places policy, but we do not really have this framework of international trust."

Experts in the tourism industry have noted that policymakers have many guidelines to build on that they have long relied on vaccines.

"The state of the vaccine has been part of a long journey to some countries," Wanger said. "I think it will be an automatic thing, as part of what you need to go safely."

In the meantime, travelers are eager for any direction. Judith Coates, a 60-year-old tourism consultant from Ontario, Canada, said she had traveled four times to Portland, Oregon, since the epidemic began. He also traveled to Mexico and Jamaica two months ago for work and family trips.