Nearly 50 million Americans have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and almost 25 million have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). That's good news for some but we still have a long ways to go for most in this country. However, the good news gets even better for those vaccinated and desire to travel outside of the country in the form of a digital health passport app.
Yes- it's true. A digital health passport app or 2 or 20 have been undergoing "testing" since October 2020 and may be available to us as early as next week.
Travelers may need to use a digital health passport app to enter certain countries, take certain cruises, travel tours or be exempt from strict testing / quarantine requirements. This may very well be the new way of travel.
What documentation(s) are required of us and what are the steps we have to take in order to be prepared for travelling in the future? How does verified information even get digitized via the app to my phone? Those were the questions I had when I was asked to participate in a digital health passport app's trial run. Now this was back when there wasn't even a vaccine but they were trying to make it easier for travelers with negative COVID-19 reports. This app would show your COVID-19 status to get on-board participating airlines like JetBlue. (plug!) jajajaja
What I would do is go to my airline and get "tested" right in the airport- 30 minutes later (yes! a half hour later!) I would get my result- currently you get "results" in 20 minutes. While waiting, I would download the app on my phone, input my pertinent information and the medical team that conducted the rapid result swabbing would put my status (if negative) via a QR code for it to be scanned at check-in and boarding. The QR code is to protect my privacy or so it is said. It would have been great- less quarantining time (or none) and less other time-consuming procedures. But I didn't do it...
I felt that although the procedure(s) were well executed in theory and the airlines, medical teams and airports were very efficient in getting travelers up in the skies- little was done once you landed at a destination. Don't get me wrong, hotels, resorts and other lodgings also did a great job but some international cities were lacking in safety protocols. Best I would have done was to stay inside the hotel- so then what would have been the point? I wouldn't want to be in a hotel lobby or lounge or poolside with my trusty mask on if the guest(s) near me did not have to oblige. Sure, we would have been outdoors in some cases, but in some cities- indoor-dining, sporting events, parades and nightlife clubs were still options. So if a fellow hotel guest went out, got some covid juice and is now getting close and chummy with me- now what? I might as well stay in my suite. Some international cities were getting as clumsy with the rules (just like cities here) and so once you left the hotel, who knows what you could contract. If I'm going to be cooped up in a suite for my safety and health concerns, then why would I go? I might as well be in my own sweet (see what I did there?) lodgings of my own home. So I opted to decline the trials.
In the United States, you can receive a physical paper card called the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card from the CDC. This card includes medical information about the vaccine you received, the date of vaccination and where you were vaccinated. However, this card really is only a reminder for your follow-up vaccine appointment. There was also a lot of fraud going on with these paper docs. Many destinations also require you to have a negative coronavirus test prior to arrival, and you’ll need a negative test to fly into the U.S. from abroad. Most coronavirus testing facilities offer paper or online results. But some testing sites only share results over the phone, which likely won’t work if you’re trying to upload your status into a mobile health passport. So apps with verified information were a must have.
CommonPass is developed by The Commons Project Foundation with support from the World Economic Forum. The pass is an independent app that collects a user’s COVID status and verifies their identity. It then produces a unique QR verification code that airlines and countries can rely on to ensure that a traveler does not have the virus.
The IATA (International Air Transport Association) Travel Pass app will allow travelers a hassle-free travel experience while meeting government COVID-19 test requirements. The app will offer global registry of health requirements to find accurate travel, testing and vaccine requirements for journeys. It will allow global registry of testing/vaccination centers to identify testing centers and labs at departure locations as well as allow passengers to receive test and vaccination certificates. It will also share testing or vaccination certificates with the concerned airlines.
Digital Health Pass, part of IBM Watson Works, is designed to provide organizations with a smart way to bring people back to a physical location, such as a workplace, school, stadium or airline flight. Built on IBM Blockchain technology, the solution is designed to enable organizations to verify health credentials for employees, customers and visitors entering their site based on criteria specified by the organization.
Surely this sounds very good for my fellow travelers and I. We can get back up into the skies, the ships and international grounds during these tough pandemic times- but there' are some things that is a little concerning for me.
What if one does not own an ios device or samsung? What if I need to present one of these apps to enter a school? Is "Little Johnny" going to have to get a device to show his medical records to enter the second grade? Some of the apps coming out are going to be tied into your medical records from your doctor's office. What if you, like millions of Americans, do not have a doctor or health care for that matter? Are we going to be denied entrance to an airport, sporting event and /or education because we do not have an "app" saying that we're healthy? What if one is HIV positive- are they going to be stigmatized and denied jobs & housing? What if one identifies with a specific gender but their medical records say their DNA differs- will that cause a problem for entry, employment or housing? Is it possible that I won't get the job because I may have high cholesterol? Will my employer get rid of me if she or he "sees" that I'm taking certain medications? What if they pass a law that says that if you don't have a digital health app; on an expensive mobile device; confirming a pristine record- then you' are not allowed to vote?
If they invest millions and millions towards the digital health apps and we ALL get vaccinated for the corona virus and its variants, do you think they'll stop using these apps? Of course not. Access to our medical information is a powerful thing and placed voluntarily in the wrong hands can lead to discriminatory situations. We already discriminate against our working class and other groups- can this just be another way to do just that?
Digital health apps are a great thing (but you do need certain expensive devices so that in itself is discriminatory) for flying during this pandemic age. But if we're going to keep it there is one thing- but you just know we're not. Already the Digital Health Pass (IBM) is primarily designed with a focus on the workforce and with some travel components but it's primarily for health verification to enter workplace locations. This in itself is allowing employers access to our private medical records beyond corona virus status. This can lead down a path that we may not want.
Of course, these opinions are just that- my opinions but I wanted to inform you all of the apps that are coming and some that are in trials. It is great news for those of us who desire to travel although you must have an IOS or Samsung device to do so (participating airlines will no longer accept paper documentations.) As a Traveler who's not going anywhere any time soon, I thought it was my duty to express my joys and fears in regards to these new digital health passport apps.
As always, please remain safe in and out of the skies!
Sources and further information :