Are COVID-19 Vaccine Passports Coming? Trudeau Says No, Airlines Say Yes

Canada Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Passports For International Travel
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Companies and other governments around the world are hard at work to put vaccine passports in place, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has nixed the idea for Canadians.

In an interview with Reuters about a month ago, the Canadian prime minister noted many people will likely choose to not get vaccinated and will have many reasons, including valid medical reasons, for choosing to do that.

“There are people who won’t get vaccinated and not necessarily through a personal or political choice,” said Trudeau. 

Making vaccine passports mandatory when many will choose not to get vaccinated for any number of reasons could lead to unexpected, undesirable effects the Canadian prime minister said he wants to avoid.

“The indications that the vast majority of Canadians are looking to get vaccinated will get us to a good place without having to take more extreme measures that could have real, divisive impacts,” he said.

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Vaccine passports already under development seem to be evolving towards apps that will provide certainty to those who scan a QR code on the user’s cell phone that the individual has, in fact, been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The measure is being touted as a way to safely re-open borders to international travel because it is thought a requirement that all travellers on airlines must be vaccinated would greatly limit the spread of COVID-19. 

The entertainment and hospitality industries have proponents of these vaccine passports in their ranks since these apps ensuring attendees have been vaccinated for COVID-19 could be used to once again hold in-person concerts and other shows, both within Canada and elsewhere. 

World Economic Forum Suggests Vaccine Passports Are Coming

Despite Trudeau’s insistence that vaccine passports will not be mandatory for Canadians, the World Economic Forum suggests otherwise on its website.

“The expectation is that with a vaccine, some aspects of life will return to normal – especially when it comes to travel – which has been particularly hard-hit,” states the organization. 

“This is where a ‘vaccine passport’ or ‘e-vaccination certification of compliance for border crossing regulations’ to enable seamless border-crossing and the harmonization of varying national laws might become a required travel document.”

The possible arrival of mandatory vaccine passports is highly-controversial with both proponents and detractors expressing strong feelings about the idea.

IATA Keen For Vaccine Passports

Despite the opposition, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a Montreal, Quebec-based association of the world’s airlines, is eager to see vaccine passports go ahead.

On its website, the IATA touts its Travel Pass Initiative. Many of the aspects of that initiative are aimed simply at providing information to travellers and governments.

“To re-open borders without quarantine and restart aviation governments need to be confident that they are effectively mitigating the risk of importing COVID-19,” the IATA states on its website. “This means having accurate information on passengers’ COVID-19 health status.”

But the association’s initiative is about more than just informing passengers about COVID-19 testing. It’s also about creating a Travel Pass App that will enable “passengers to (1) create a ‘digital passport’, (2) verify their test/vaccination meets the regulations and (3) shares test or vaccination certificates with authorities to facilitate travel.”

Singapore Airlines Tests IATA Vaccine Passport

According to the IATA, that app would be “used by travellers to manage travel documentation digitally and seamlessly throughout the travel experience.”

Two days ago, Singapore Airlines became the first airline in the world to announce it will pilot the IATA’s Travel Pass App, starting with Singapore-to-London flights from Monday next week through to March 28.

In that pilot program, passengers with Apple’s operating systems will be able to download the app and create a digital identification with a profile photo and passport information. They will also be able to put their flight information into the app.

When they go online to book their pre-departure COVID-19 test at one of seven participating clinics in Singapore, those travellers will register with the clinic using the digital ID and flight information in the app. The IATA’s registry will provide the back-end information on the COVID-19 testing and entry requirements.

Those travellers will then need to show their confirmed status in the app to the check-in staff at the airport before departure but still need to bring a physical copy of their health certificate issued by the clinic where they took their COVID-19 test.

“The first phase of the trials helped to support (Singapore Airlines)’s drive towards a secure and convenient industry standard for the verification of COVID-19 test results, and the health status of passengers including their vaccination status, in the future,” said the airline’s acting senior vice-president of marketing, JoAnn Tan, in a statement.

“That gives us the confidence that in the second phase, we can further streamline the verification process for eventual integration into (the airline’s) mobile application. This will help to provide a hassle-free digital solution for our customers in the new normal, and help to bring about a more seamless travel experience.” 

Nick Careen, the IATA’s senior vice president of airport, passenger, cargo, and security, says the partnership with Singapore Airlines is a first step in getting the airline industry back on its feet. 

“(It) will help get the world flying again,” he said in a statement. “In the immediate term, it is the solution for travellers to safely and securely manage their travel health credentials. In the longer term, the digital identity elements of the IATA Travel Pass will place Singapore Airlines passengers at the front of the queue for an even more convenient contactless travel experience.”

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