A number of U.S. states — in addition to D.C., and Puerto Rico — offer digital proof of vaccination using the SMART Health Card system, which can generate a QR code.
Countries around the world have eased entry requirements for international travelers, but many still require coronavirus tests or proof of vaccination to enter. And for some, not just any proof will do.
Depending on where you’re headed, showing a vaccination card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may not be enough. You may need to take extra steps before your trip to set up a “vaccine passport” that can be digitally verified.
Below, experts detail how vaccine passports work, how to get them and where you might need one now.
What are vaccine passports?
Vaccine passports are digital or paper documents demonstrating that you have been inoculated.
“You could think about a yellow card showing yellow fever vaccination as a vaccine passport,” said Scott Weisenberg, medical director of the Travel Medicine Program at NYU Langone Health. That example refers to the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, which he said all countries accept.
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But not all governments agree on what constitutes acceptable proof of a coronavirus jab.
“This is a new virus and we don’t have well-established requirements,” Weisenberg said. “Each country is setting its own guidelines.”
While places like the U.K. accept CDC cards in addition to certain state records such as New York’s Excelsior Pass Plus, others do not. Many state governments have banned vaccine passports within their borders, but residents can still use them for foreign travel. The European Union has a free digital coronavirus certificate for member states, and Italy has its own Green Pass required for hotels and public transportation (through March).
“Right now, the definition [of “vaccine passport”] that matters is the definition of the person in front of you helping you go through immigration,” Weisenberg said.
To ensure your definitions match, he recommended that travelers check with the airline or look on websites for their destination’s embassy or consulate as early as possible. Then continue to check to make sure requirements don’t change before a trip.
Vaccine passports often create a digital version of your coronavirus certificate to display at various points throughout your trip, typically on arrival to bypass testing or quarantine requirements.
Many coronavirus passes generate corresponding QR codes that can be scanned to verify your vaccination status.
Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of luxury travel agency Embark Beyond, said “almost all” airlines offer some kind of technology that allows you to upload proof of vaccination before your flight. He said the airline will typically send travelers an email asking them to upload any necessary documents before checking in.
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