After calls for their introduction from airlines and countries, authorities in the EU are now discussing vaccination passports. The hope is that they can enable travel, for vaccinated holidaymakers.
Most people in Europe are not thinking about holidays at the moment. There is a lot of concern about new forms of coronavirus, capable of spreading faster than before. There is some encouraging evidence, that current vaccines can tackle these variants. But with the implications of the contrary being unthinkable, most countries prefer to err on the side of caution.
Nonetheless, vaccination passports are coming into the EU agenda. And for some countries, they are a high priority. The interest of airlines, that hope to get back to work, is understandable. The same applies for those countries depending on tourism. For many, vaccination passports hold the key to returning to some form of normality, in and out of the EU.
There is already some important work being done on the matter. First we saw individual airlines, working on their own initiatives. More recently, just before the EU’s news, IATA started efforts to standardize digital vaccination passports, for world-wide use. It seems that Emirates will become the first airline to try IATA’s ‘Travel Pass’.
But airline and even IATA initiatives mean little, if countries around the world don’t agree to adopt them. This is why everyone is looking at the EU’s stance on vaccination passports, with interest. At the moment it is unclear if the European Commission is looking at a passport in a digital or paper form. But the priority is to come up with something reliable, that countries in Europe and beyond will recognize.
A Need For EU Vaccination Passports
Proof of vaccination for yellow fever and other diseases has been around for decades, in parts of the world. Clearly, Covid-19 is no less a threat – to put it mildly. So many authorities (and airlines) feel that the public will accept such a measure. And in any case, in some EU countries, passengers with proof of vaccination (and their regular passports) can already enter without restrictions.
These countries include Cyprus and Romania. Greece, too, has expressed the opinion that vaccinated passengers should be free to travel. And well before the EU started looking at vaccination passports, Iceland and Hungary accepted people who had recovered from Covid-19.
And the above is why some feel that vaccination passports for EU travel might not be that crucial after all. If countries accept vaccination documentation, then what is the point of passports? The worry there is that we may see efforts to counterfeit documentation. Airlines don’t want to risk a stall in travel, from countries rejecting documents en-masse.
The hope, for many, is that the EU (and others) will accept digital vaccination passports, already in development. IATA and the airlines are already working to ensure they are secure. Apps for storing Covid-19 test results already had such safeguards, often making paper copies of test results redundant.
Whether they are airlines, the US, EU or others, there is significant interest in vaccination passports in some form. Many look for a safe way to restart travel, and with it the world’s economies. But of course all this depends on the speed with which vaccines actually arrive. There are some encouraging signs on this front – but certainly not everywhere.