5 Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccine Passports

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Karon Warren on May 14, 2021
  • concept of covid-19 digital health passport display on a smartphone, with vaccine vials, needle and syringe, and stethoscope on table with white background
    Vaccine Passport During COVID-19
    As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and prepare to resume travel for work and pleasure, there has been some talk regarding having a vaccine passport in order to hit the road. Will you need a COVID-19 vaccine passport for travel? Find out about so-called digital health and vaccine passport apps for domestic and international travel as well as when you might be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to travel.
  • woman, blurred in background, holding out smartphone with digital immunization certificate for covid-19 and qr code
    1. Vaccine passports are mobile apps showing proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
    While the White House announced in March 2021 there was no intention of creating a universal federal vaccination database or requirement for a vaccine passport, many app developers are putting forth their own version of a vaccine passport. These mobile phone apps contain digital proof of your COVID-19 vaccination, as well as COVID-related paperwork, such as COVID-19 test results or health waivers. As of this writing, the mobile apps include the International Air Transport Association’s IATA Travel Pass; CommonPass, which is available using a participating airline’s invitation code; and IBM’s Digital Health Pass, which focuses on workplaces and businesses more so than travel.
  • hand of unidentifiable person holding smartphone showing international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis for covid-19 and QR code, validated online on a computer in the background
    2. COVID-19 vaccine passports are not in use everywhere.
    While COVID-19 vaccine passports are receiving a lot of attention as proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, they are not widely used or accepted yet. Some airlines are accepting the vaccine passport apps, such as CommonPass for select flights out of New York and Boston, and IATA’s Travel Pass has been accepted for limited international travel. However, several states, including Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arkansas have stated they will ban or opt out of any vaccine passports. Many state officials say a vaccine passport violates privacy or takes away an individual’s right to choose or decline a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • mature Asian man holding smartphone with digital certificate of covid-19 vaccination
    3. Vaccine passports are not the same the world over.
    The reason for so many different vaccine passport apps is there is no global consensus on what a vaccine passport should contain. Every country around the world has its own specific features and requirements for a COVID-19 vaccination certificate, so the vaccine passport apps are tailored for the audience it serves. The Biden administration is working with several organizations, including the World Health Organization, to craft international travel standards as well as with private-led vaccine passport initiatives on guidelines for domestic use.
  • large-group-of-smiling-people
    4. Access to vaccine passports is not available to everyone.
    Access to COVID-19 vaccines continues to be a problem in many countries around the globe, meaning many people won’t receive a COVID-19 vaccination for many months. In addition, many U.S. residents are opting not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and residents ages 11 and younger are still not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (One vaccine has been authorized for teens age 12 and older.) As a result, these people are not eligible to have a vaccine passport, which could limit their ability to travel. For these reasons, the World Health Organization has cautioned countries to not require a COVID-19 vaccine passport for the time being.
  • Sick man lying on sofa watching TV
    5. Having a vaccine passport doesn’t mean you won’t contract or spread COVID-19.
    Although receiving a COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to greatly reduce contracting or spreading the coronavirus that leads to COVID-19, it’s not 100% effective. Having a vaccine passport may provide some peace of mind that permits you to travel, but it doesn’t guarantee you won’t contract or spread the coronavirus to others. There is no definitive research yet that indicates how long a COVID-19 vaccine provides protection, and many more people would need to receive a COVID-19 vaccination to achieve herd immunity.

    Contact the U.S. State Department or your individual state government or public health department for COVID-19 and vaccine information.
5 Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccine Passports |Digital Health App
  1. Everything Travelers Need to Know About Vaccine Passports. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2020/12/08/vaccine-passport-immunity-app-covid/
  2. A Look at COVID-19 Vaccine “Passports,” Passes and Apps Around the Globe. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/26/travel/vaccine-passport-cards-apps.html
  3. Key Questions About COVID-19 Vaccine Passports and the U.S. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/key-questions-about-covid-19-vaccine-passports-and-the-u-s/
  4. IATA Travel Pass Initiative. International Air Transport Association. https://www.iata.org/en/programs/passenger/travel-pass/
  5. CommonPass. https://commonpass.org/

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Last Review Date: 2021 May 12
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.