CORONAVIRUS US

Coronavirus US: are the covid-19 vaccine passports available?

While travel numbers have started to creep up, a vaccine passport or pass is only available in one US state at the moment but others could follow.

Coronavirus US: are the covid-19 vaccine passports available?
KARINA HESSLAND REUTERS

Recent figures from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) show that the number of people travelling in the US is slowly starting to pick up again. TSA officers screened 1,278,113 passengers at US airports on 31 March 2021 – that's more than half the traveller throughput figures for pre-pandemic data for the same day in 2019.

US covid-19 vaccination programme

The reason why more people are travelling is probably because more people being vaccinated – 147,602,345 Americans have received at least one dose of one of the covid-19 vaccines currently approved for emergency use in the country. Under the executive order signed by President Biden on 21 January, all travellers entering the United States are required to produce proof of a recent negative covid-19 test prior to entry.

As for special passports or health certificates that prove that travellers have been vaccinated, tested negative in a PCR test or have already suffered the virus and have antibodies, there are concerns about privacy and fraud. Only a handful of countries have such a scheme currently running – in Israel, the Ministry of Health has issued a Green Pass which is valid for six months after an individual has received the second dose of the vaccine. China launched a colour-based (red, amber or green) QR health code app which is downloaded onto their mobile phones. The problem is that it also allows individuals' movements to be tracked, contains their contacts, consumer habits and health history which raises questions over data harvesting and privacy. Critics also point out that they discriminate against those who, for whatever reason, have not been vaccinated or have access to the vaccine.

Just one covid-19 passport available in the US

In the US, the Biden administration have been advising companies who are considering creating vaccine passports for those who wish to prove they have been vaccinated. Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 Task Force said earlier this week that it is not the government’s role to create one, nor do they plan to hold such data on US citizens. But that doesn’t stop states from developing their own. The only one currently is use is the New York Excelsior Pass app which was launched last week. The New York Excelsior Pass app gives New Yorkers digital proof that they have either been vaccinated for covid-19 or tested negative. The smartphone app is free and is not compulsory. It is available for Apple and Android devices.