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G7 Covid Passports Flags

Vaccine passport talks in G7 countries

Were you planning to renew your passport any time soon? Well, you may now be forced to make additional space in your wallet for a vaccine passport too. COVID has changed many fundamental aspects of our lives and it seems IDs are next.

In the near future, we may be required to possess additional documentation to prove that we do not represent a risk to the country we want to travel to, the so-called vaccine passport. This new term has entered the vocabulary of many politicians in recent times and has even found its way to some of the top airlines in the world.

Just to be clear, a vaccination ‘pass’ or passport is a document proving that you have received a vaccine against COVID-19. It may even include your recent test results, showing that you tested negative for the virus, making it even easier to travel. The details are still unclear, as it is currently being worked on by governments and airline companies alike, but the general consensus is that it will have a digital format.

And that is about all the consensus we can talk about, as we will soon see. Countries have struggled with both the pandemic response and vaccination efforts. This includes the G7 nations. Let’s take a look at how they plan on tackling the new vaccination passport idea.

Canada

Canada’s minister of health Patty Hajdu acknowledged the need for the country to be involved with the talks of a vaccine passport, and even prime minister Justin Trudeau confirmed this. However, no specifics have been given by either in terms of what Canada is actually doing or plans to do in this regard.

TOTAL POPULATION VACCINATION STATISTICS:
5.11% has received at least one dose, 1.51% have received two doses
Total population: ~37.6 million (2019)

France

Transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari announced on the 11th of March that Air France passengers will be required to use a smartphone app to prove that they have either received a COVID-19 vaccine or tested negative for the disease. This is part of a 1-month trial for the system and it only applied to passengers traveling to the French Caribbean territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

The minister added that the ‘goal is to see if it works well in real-time’ and whether it can ‘ensure against fraud and shorten waiting lines’ or not.  He also mentioned that there are no plans for such a passport to be used in other sectors such as restaurants or the cinema, at least for now.

TOTAL POPULATION VACCINATION STATISTICS:
7.2% received at least one dose, 3.3% received two doses
Total population: ~67 million, with overseas territories

Germany

German chancellor Angela Marker is in favor of such passports, though only after most of the population has been vaccinated. While the German public is majoritarily in favor of the concept, many believe the country should wait a bit until more people get vaccinated. The passport would allow entry to gyms, theaters, sporting events, and travel, but concerns have been raised on how the situation would evolve for those who refuse to be vaccinated.

TOTAL POPULATION VACCINATION STATISTICS:
~8% received at least one dose
Total population: ~83 million

Italy

Can’t wait for your next gondola ride through the Grand Canal of Venice? Well, you are not alone. Many tourists are waiting to get their tickets and have already started making vacation plans. The Italian government has, however, not stated any intent or plans regarding the certificate, but it has been called upon by Italy’s National Federation of Travel and Tourism Industry to step up its vaccination efforts.

TOTAL POPULATION VACCINATION STATISTICS:
~10.3% received at least one dose, ~3.3% received two doses
Total population: ~60 million

Japan

The Japanese government acknowledges the need for digital vaccine passports, as the minister in charge of administrative reform, Taro Kono indicated “There is a global effort to systematize vaccination records for international travel”. The health minister, Norihisa Tamura has expressed his concerns, shared by many in the country, that Japan could ‘see a problem with discrimination and prejudice’ against those without the vaccine passport.

Therefore, the aim, for now, is to develop and use such certificates for international travel only. We could see them in action as early as April, according to the Japanese government.

TOTAL POPULATION VACCINATION STATISTICS:
~0.2% received at least one dose
Total population: ~127 million

The United Kingdom

At present, anyone receiving a dose of vaccine in the UK will receive a ‘vaccination card’, but its purpose is only to remind patients that they require two doses of COVID-19 vaccines, so it features a date and batch number of the first and the later second vaccination for the user’s own information only.

In terms of an actual vaccine passport, the UK government is still reviewing the potential benefits for international travel. The COVID vaccine Deployment head, Nadhim Zahawi stated that “If other countries will require a vaccine certificate then I think it’s right that we facilitate it”.Domestic use is currently not planned.

TOTAL POPULATION VACCINATION STATISTICS:
~35.5% received at least one dose, ~2.3% received two doses
Total population: ~67 million

The United States

The US is also currently ‘assessing the feasibility’ of vaccine passports. However, since December of 2020, passengers en-route to certain destinations have been using the CommonPass system to show their COVID-19 test results to airport officials. Groups like United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic have conducted trials with the system showing promising results. The vaccine passports are not mandatory yet, many carriers offering Covid-19 tests at the airports instead.

TOTAL POPULATION VACCINATION STATISTICS:
~21% received at least one dose, ~11% received two doses
Total population: ~331 million

The European Union

While the EU is not considered a sovereign Member State and is thus incapable of assuming G7 presidency, it is a ‘non-enumerated’ member of the organization and takes part in all of its discussions.

The 27 member states have agreed on the issue of the so-called ‘Digital Green Pass’. In order to prevent discrimination, the digital document would also include recent Covid-19 test results. The European Commission is currently in the process of drafting legislation for this purpose. While the general consensus between the members is that such a vaccine passport is needed, there are still disagreements on whether vaccination should be a prerequisite to traveling.

TOTAL POPULATION VACCINATION STATISTICS:
~8.3% received at least one dose, ~3.7% received two doses
Total population: ~520 million including EEA member states

Worldwide, besides the CommonPass digital vaccine passport platform, IATA is currently working on the IATA Travel Pass app as a ‘standardized solution to validate and authenticate all country regulations regarding passenger travel requirements’.

Will vaccine passports include information regarding both vaccination and test results?

This varies from country to country. Generally, information regarding vaccination status is mandatory, while test results are not the main concerns.

Are vaccine passports ethical?

This is the number one dividing topic in regards to vaccine passports. The main fear is that unvaccinated individuals may be discriminated against and/or be refused access to facilities in some countries. A solution to this concern is still unclear.

Are vaccine passports needed?

This question concerns many scientists around the world. This is because the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines against several virus variants circulating in different countries is still not sufficiently documented and studied. Additionally, many countries still present a slow vaccine roll-out, so vaccine passports may prove to be a divisive factor between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.

Will there be a unified vaccine passport system?

The IATA Travel Pass system has seen more and more airlines signing up for its use. These include, but are not limited to, Air New Zealand, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, and All Nippon Airways (ANA). The EU is planning on having such a system applied to the 27 nations bloc, but it is still unclear how it will synergize with other such vaccine passport systems.

Does China use digital vaccine passports?

Yes, they are dubbed ‘international travel health certificates’, which are essentially QR codes that when scanned lead to the user’s vaccine and Covid-19 test history. This system, however, has been developed without input from any international organization and does not have the power to permit international travel.

Conclusion

The topic of vaccine passports is still very much debated. Many questions remain unanswered and additional studies and reviews need to be made. It will be worth keeping an eye out on how things evolve from here on.


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