Features

Vaccine passports - a guide to the different options

5 May 2021 by Hannah Brandler
Emirates-Covid-passports-pr2-3

As vaccinations are rolled out in many parts of the world, discussions continue about the possibility of having some kind of digital document to prove that travellers are protected against Covid-19.

It’s important to note that although often referred to as ‘passports’ none of these apps are a passport, and in any case a passport or identity card would need to be presented alongside whatever information is contained in the app. A passport is an official document issued by a government to identify a person as a citizen of that country.

These digital apps are ‘passes’ and simply hold information regarding the Covid-19 health status of travellers such as test results and, eventually, vaccinations. The passes are likely to appear as apps on smartphones, and would have to be recognised by individual governments to allow international travel.

Several different companies and international bodies are suggesting a variety of technological solutions at the moment to document and verify travellers’ health status, while carriers such as Ryanair have launched their own Covid-19 Document Holder systems.

Here, we round up the different passes on trial at the moment.

AOKPass

Who’s behind it?

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has collaborated with International SOS and the SGS Group to create this digital, secure and portable copy of medical records.

How does it work?

Once individuals have medical results, they can enter the information into an app to create a pass. A unique code is generated and shown to the individual and their medical practitioner for them to verify the information. They will then be able to show the QR code for verification at airports.

Where is it available?

Successful trials took place on flights last year between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan. Since then, the following airlines have started to use the technology:

  • Alitalia has begun a pilot scheme to digitise Covid-19 rapid antigen test results via the passport for flights from Rome to New York
  • Passengers travelling to Singapore from Indonesia and Malaysia can use the pass to show their Covid-19 test results at dedicated immigration lanes at Changi airport. International SOS states that this will be rolled out to other international travellers “in the coming months”
  • Etihad will pilot the digital health passport on routes between Paris and Abu Dhabi
  • Air Caraïbes and French Bee will use the pass on routes from Paris Orly to the French Overseas Territories (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana, La Réunion and Tahiti) from March
  • Air France is trialling the pass on routes from Paris CDG to Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe, and Fort-de-France in Martinique. This has been extended to include routes to and from Los Angeles and San Francisco for a four-week period
  • Corsair will pilot the passport on routes between Paris and French overseas territories Pointe-à-Pitre, Fort de France, Réunion and Mayotte from the third week of March. Passengers will be able to store and certify the results of their PCR test on the mobile app for verification at the airports

Is my data secure?

The AOKpass states that medical records are stored only on your device and will not be shared or stored elsewhere. The pass is verified without the need of showing any personal or medical information, and travellers can “choose when and where to share [their] information”. The information is secured using a “hashing algorithm so that it can’t be read by anyone else”.

Common Pass

Who’s behind it?

The Commons Project has partnered with the World Economic Forum to launch this digital health pass.

How does it work?

Lab results and vaccination records will be accessed through existing health data systems, national or local registries or personal digital health records such as Apple Health and Common Health. Individuals will need to consent to the information being used to validate their Covid status. The technology will then assess whether the results and records come from a trusted source and whether they satisfy the health screening requirements of the country they wish to enter. There will be a simple yes/no answer to whether the individual meets the entry criteria.

Travellers will receive a unique confirmation code that they can show at the airport to board the flight. Common Pass also states that those who lack smartphones will be able to print off a confirmation code and show it at the airport.

Where is it available?

The first trials were completed in October with Cathay Pacific between Hong Kong and Singapore, and United Airlines between London and New York. Since then, carriers including ANA, Jetblue, Lufthansa, Swiss and Virgin Atlantic have trialled the technology.

Cathay Pacific recently carried out another trial on a flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, and Japan Airlines is trialling the Common Pass platform on selected flights from Japan to Honolulu and Singapore.

Is my data secure?

Common Pass states that it won’t reveal “any other underlying personal health information” and that Apple Health and Common Health “let individuals store their health records securely and privately on their phones, entirely under their control”.

Digital Green Certificate

Who’s behind it?

The European Commission has presented a proposal for a digital green certificate to facilitate free movement within the EU.

How does it work?

The document will provide proof that an individual has been vaccinated against Covid-19, recovered from the virus or received a negative test result, preventing discrimination against individuals who are not vaccinated. The Commission states that it would “expect [Member States] to take this proof of people’s Covid-19 status into account to facilitate travel” and that “being in possession of a certificate is not a prerequisite of exercising the right to free movement or other fundamental rights”.

Citizens can also request a paper alternative, with both digital and paper versions featuring a QR code containing essential information and a digital seal to “make sure the certificate is authentic”.

Where is it available?

The digital green certificates will be free of charge, bilingual and valid in all EU Member States, allowing every EU citizen or third-country national legally staying or residing in the EU to be exempt from quarantine restrictions. The certificate will also be open to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said that the certificate will be operational by the end of June.

Is my data secure?

The digital green certificate will contain data such as name, date of birth, date of issuance, relevant information about vaccine/test/recovery and a QR code with a digital signature to ensure security and authenticity. This will be scanned and verified by the member states – the European Commission will work with countries to develop software for authorities to check the QR codes.

The European Commission will create a gateway to ensure all certificates can be verified across the EU. The personal data will be secure and the information “cannot be retained by visited countries”.

Health Pass by Clear

Who’s behind it?

The airport biometrics provider Clear has moved into the public health arena in the US, launching a Health Pass within its mobile app.

How does it work?

This service is designed for businesses to keep employees and customers safe.  First, users must add an ID, and verify their identity with a selfie.  They can then complete a real-time health survey and upload Covid-related lab results directly from an approved lab provider. Once at a participating location, users should go to the Clear pod and undergo a temperature scan, and then show or scan their health pass (either by facial recognition or a QR code) to gain access to the location. The pod will show a red or green light to denote whether the user has passed or failed the screening.

Where is it available?

The Health Pass is being used by over 35 organisations across various industries.

Clear has also launched partnerships with the likes of MGM Resorts and the 9/11 Museum in New York to use the app to screen its staff for the virus.

Is my data secure?

The specific answers to survey questions or any specific test results are not provided to third party partners or employers.

IATA Travel Pass

Who’s behind it?

The International Air Transport Association has designed a digital health pass that will support the safe reopening of borders.

How does it work?

The mobile app contains information required by many authorities. The pass enables authorised labs and test centres to securely share test and vaccination certificates with passengers. Passengers can then create a digital passport and share testing or vaccination certificates with airlines and authorities to facilitate travel. In effect the Travel Pass contains the information to verify if a passenger is eligible to undertake their travel journey. The digital Travel Pass will launch on the Apple platform from mid-April, according to Reuters.

See how it works in the video below:

Where is it available?

IATA has recently partnered with Etihad Airways, Emirates and Qatar Airways to launch the Travel Pass for passengers.

  • Etihad Airways is trialling the pass on flights from Abu Dhabi to North America
  • Emirates is trialling the pass on selected flights from Dubai to Barcelona, as well as from London Heathrow to Dubai, with plans to roll it out to include other routes “soon”
  • Qatar Airways has begun trials of the app on its Doha-Istanbul route
  • IATA has also partnered with the government of Panama and Copa Airlines to trial the pass in March on select flights from Panama City
  • Air New Zealand has announced plans to trial the IATA Travel Pass digital health passport on flights between Auckland and Sydney from April. ANZ said that the trial will initially run for three weeks, with both crew and customers invited to join
  • Rwandair will become the first African airline to trial the IATA Travel Pass, beginning a three-week trial in April for passengers travelling between Kigali and Nairobi in Kenya
  • Malaysia Airlines plans to incorporate the pass into its own mobile app
  • Singapore Airlines is conducting a two-week trial of the app between March 15-28 for customers travelling from Singapore to London
  • Air Baltic will carry out a three-week trial for customers on the Latvian airline’s Riga-Amsterdam and Riga-Oslo routes
  • Virgin is to trial the IATA Travel Pass app on its Heathrow-Barbados route from April 16 for one month, “in close collaboration with the Government of Barbados”. Virgin has confirmed that it will be “the first UK airline to conduct a live trial of IATA Travel Pass”. The carrier also said it would also seek approval from the UK government to expand the trial, to allow for it to be used with customers arriving at the UK border on flights from Barbados to Heathrow
  • Hong Kong Airlines will trial the pass on selected routes
  • Japan Airlines plans to trial the pass on selected international flights during May
  • Iberia is trialling the IATA Travel Pass on Latin-America routes, launching the digital health passport on its flights to Uruguay on April 10

Is my data secure?

IATA says that the Travel Pass “will keep passengers in control of their data and facilitate the sharing of their tests with airlines and authorities for travel”.

Read more about it here:

IAG working with IATA on its new Travel Pass

 

IBM Digital Health Pass

Who’s behind it?

IBM Watson Health has designed a digital wallet product for smartphones.

How does it work?

The product enables organisations to verify health credentials for employees, customers and visitors entering their site based on their own set of criteria. This might include Covid-19 test results, temperature scans, and vaccine status. It aims to “bring people back to a physical location, such as a workplace, school, stadium or airline flight.”

Where is it available?

At the moment, the National Institutes of Health (part of the US Department of Health and Human Services) and Salesforce have signed on to trial the pass. Salesforce will provide individuals with “a verifiable and privacy-preserving way to manage and share their vaccination and health status in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic” via its Salesforce Work.com platform.

The State of New York has also began a pilot program of the health pass, with the aim to eventually provide residents with “a simple, voluntary, and secure method for showing proof of a negative Covid-19 test result or certification of vaccination.”

Is my data secure?

IBM states that the encrypted digital wallet allows individuals to “control what they share, with whom and for what purpose”. The company adds that, through the use of blockchain technology, the health pass can be “verified, trusted and tamperproof”.

The Mvine-iProov passport 

Who’s behind it?

Biometrics firm iProov has partnered with cyber security group Mvine to launch this passport. It is also backed by Innovate UK – a non-departmental public body funded by a grant from the UK government.

How does it work?

This technology enables people to register a test result or vaccination status without disclosing their identity. The medical professional administering the vaccine will be able to create the online certificate using a phone or tablet and then ask the user to have a selfie added to their electronic certificate.

The technology “does not discrimate against people based on the kind of smartphone they own, and there is a route for people who do not possess smartphones – i.e. a card-based method.

Where is it available?

It is currently being tested by Directors of Public Health within the NHS, with two trials expected to be completed by March 31, 2021.

Is my data secure?

The certificate is completely anonymous and “does not need to include the name, address, NHS number or any other identifying information about the person”. When the person wishes to present their certificate, they show for example a QR code and merely need to verify their face against the image attached to their online certificate using any mobile phone or tablet equipped with the app. According to the providers, “an individual therefore cannot be verified without their knowledge and consent… Apart from the certificate number and the biometric, no other identity information is required or stored online.”

NHS passport

Who’s behind it?

The UK government has confirmed that England will use the existing NHS app as a vaccine passport for travel overseas.

How does it work?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says that the NHS app which is used to book general appointments (not to be confused with the one currently being used to check-in to venues for contact tracing) will be able to store negative test results and vaccine certification.

“It will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS and so on, to be able to show that you’ve had a vaccine or that you’ve had testing, and I’m working internationally with partners across the world to make sure that the system can be internationally recognised.”

The app is already able to show vaccine status but this must be enabled by GPs, with some surgeries offering it by default and others asking patients to request it.

Where is it available?

This only concerns England at the moment. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have not yet made decisions regarding Covid certification for overseas travel.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC that NHS’s digital division is working on making the ‘passport’ operational in time for the resumption of international travel on May 17. Nevertheless, The Times reported that it may not be ready by this date due to “problems verifying the user and making it internationally recognised”.

Scan2Fly

Who’s behind it?

Air Asia has developed this digital health pass in partnership with analytics company GrayMatter.

How does it work?

The app aims to streamline health document checks and determine eligibility to travel. Passengers will be prompted to provide any documents required by the destination country and will then need to scan and upload medical certificates at the time of online check-in. AirAsia will then analyse the documents in real-time and either approve or reject the travel status.

Where is it available?

The technology has already launched on routes from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, Surabaya and Jakarta.

Is my data secure?

Graymatter states that its cloud-hosted system is “equipped with robust information security”.

Trust Assure

Who’s behind it?

Trust Assure is powered by US-based CLX Health, and provides a global network of Covid-19 testing partners and providers with over 15,000 locations across 50 countries.

How does it work?

Passengers can upload their test documentation in advance of their flight, where it will be “validated using AI, in less than two minutes”. Once confirmed, customers will receive a QR code with a “green verification”, allowing them proceed through check-in.

The provider states that the default life span of a Trust Assure pass is 30 days, so the consumer will need to be retested on or before the expiration date to maintain healthy status on the pass.

Where is it available?

From March 29 customers travelling on Virgin Atlantic’s five currently operating routes from Heathrow to the US (New York JFK, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston and Atlanta) will be able to verify their Covid-19 test results using the technology.

Virgin said that the Trust Assure solution had already proven “extremely effective” in development and trials by the carrier’s joint venture partner Delta.

Is my data secure?

The provider states that it is a “secure portal”.

Vaccine Guard

Who’s behind it?

The product has been built by tech company Guardtime and is based on a six-month collaboration with the Estonian government and WHO.

How does it work?

The network is an open platform which allows the secure and reliable sharing of information across systems and borders. According to the tech company, it “provides a feedback loop between all participants in the network for usage cases as diverse as counterfeit detection, vaccine allocation prioritisation, and pharmacovigilance.”

Where is it available?

At the moment, Estonia, Hungary and Iceland have signed up to pilot Vaccine Guard, with additional governments expected to join “in the near future”.

Is my data secure?

The company states that it employs “leading privacy and security features to protect patient and other sensitive information”.

Verifly

Who’s behind it?

Verifly has been created by software engineering company Daon and consists of a digital health pass app. The app is flexible and aims to cater to various traveller requirements, with Daon adding that it would be possible to add a vaccine credential into the Verifly service in the future.

The app currently has over 100,000 subscribers, and there has been a rapid uptick in the rate of adoption in the past few weeks. Daon is also in discussion with a number of other organisations in the travel ecosystem, including hotels, cruises and conferences whereby the health pass could be more broadly applicable.

How does it work?

The digital health pass streamlines verification of Covid-19 tests and other health documentation. Passengers will first have to consent to the terms and conditions, and provide their first name, surname and a valid email address. They will then need to take a selfie and verify their account by clicking a link in the email. Once validated, passengers can add a pass to the “My Passes” screen and view the necessary travel requirements and instructions for their destination. Users will need to enter flight details and travel details such as nationality and date of birth.

To fulfil the entry requirements for the destination they are travelling to, users will have to fill out forms (such as an attestation for the US, or the passenger locator form in the UK) and will be asked to upload a Covid-19 test result including information such as the date and time of test, type of test, lab location and confirmation that it’s negative. Only Covid test types accepted for the destination will be presented to the user.

Once submitted, trained staff will verify the information through a series of checks and ask the user to provide more information if they are unsure of its legitimacy. Daon is currently putting in place direct connections with lab and testing companies so that it can check the results more easily. Once checked, the app will then provide either a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ message. The final step is a ‘pre-airport’ checklist that you have a valid passport, a negative Covid-19 test and that you are not experiencing symptoms of the virus. Once users reach the airport, they can present their pass by scanning the QR code at the checkpoint gate or showing it to a pass provider staff member.

Daon states that it is very easy to add new form types or update existing ones to abide by the ever-evolving government policies and visa requirements around the world. This might cover, for instance, the new requirement to declare the reason for travel in the UK – there are ongoing discussions on the exact requirements mandated by the UK government.

Where is it available?

The app is currently being used by British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia.

American Airlines introduced the health passport for travellers on all international routes to the US in January. This followed an earlier trial on select routes from South America and the Caribbean. The airline has said that thousands of customers have already travelled using the app.

British Airways begins the trial on February 4 on all of its transatlantic routes between London and the US (currently New York JFK, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Washington, Houston and Seattle). The airline states that a second phase of the trial will follow “in the near future”, allowing customers to use the app when travelling from the US to the UK with either BA or American Airlines. The focus is currently on routes to the US, but the airline states that it will roll out the service to other destinations in the future.

The app is a voluntary proposition and passengers can instead provide evidence that they meet US entry requirements at check-in should they prefer. The use of the app, however, will save time when travelling as users can fill in the paperwork at home rather than at the airport – there will also be dedicated check-in desks for certified customers. Previously the app could only accept the details of one user per device, but this has now been expanded to up to nine users, in what BA said effectively amounted to “a family pass”.

[Note that BA is also moving ahead with vaccine certification for travel, with passengers eligible for travel from London to India able to upload negative Covid-19 test results and other travel declaration forms directly into their booking on the airline’s website. This will be rolled out to more destinations over the coming weeks.]

BA states that, despite trialling Verifly, it will continue to work with IATA on the IATA Travel Pass and is hopeful for the integration between various apps to provide solutions to all the countries the carrier flies to.

Iberia has also begun a trial of the Verifly digital health pass app, allowing customers to verify Covid-19 test certificates before arriving at the airport. The two-month trial is running until April 23, on Iberia flights to Miami and New York.

Japan Airlines too is trialling the Verifly app on selected US routes, with a view to implementing the platform on North America routes from April.

Is my data secure?

Verifly states that its “design ensures the privacy of the individual and keeps the credentials and biometric data of the person on the device. Users have the ability to establish an identity and strongly assert that identity through the smart phone or biometric authentication.”

Users can also delete their account at any time, and all data will be deleted and cannot be restored.

Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI)

Who’s behind it?

A coalition of health and technology partners including Microsoft, Oracle and The Commons Project.

How does it work?

It aims to allow individuals to access to their vaccination records “in a secure, verifiable and privacy-preserving way”. The coalition is developing standards for organisations administering vaccines to make credentials available in an accessible, interoperable, digital format.

Individuals will obtain an encrypted digital copy of their vaccination records to store in a digital wallet of their choice. VCI also said that people could receive printed QR codes with verifiable information.

Country-specific developments

Various countries around the world are also beginning to develop digital vaccine passes to allow citizens to travel abroad and reopen their societies.

China

China has said it plans to unveil a vaccine passport that could exempt travellers from certain travel restrictions.

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said Beijing is willing to explore reciprocal recognition of other governments’ vaccine passports, which act as proof of inoculation, according to the Global Times.

Travellers from Hong Kong and Macau inoculated with a Chinese or foreign-produced vaccine are likely to be among the first to benefit from such a programme. Although inbound international travellers will likely be exempt from China’s 14-day mandatory quarantine with a vaccine passport, they could still be required to present a negative PCR test result prior to departure.

Denmark

The Danish government has begun to trial its Coronapas, a digital app which shows whether you have been vaccinated, had a negative test result within the last 72 hours or proof of a previous infection two-12 weeks earlier. The ‘passport’ can also be issued in paper form. The coronapas applies to hairdressers and beauty salons at the moment, and will be extended to cinemas, theatre, restaurants and gyms from May 6.

Dubai

Emirates and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to create a digital health pass.

Under the MoU, Emirates and the DHA will work to link the IT systems of DHA-approved laboratories with Emirates’ reservations and check-in systems in order to enable the efficient sharing, storing and verification of passenger health information related to COVID-19 infection, testing and vaccination – all in a secure and legally compliant manner.

The project has begun already, with the aim of bringing it to “live” implementation to benefit travellers in the coming months.

France

France’s TousAntiCovid app, which has thus far been used as a contact tracing service, can now store Covid test results on customers’ smartphones within the ‘carnet’ (booklet) feature of the app.

The digital travel certificate will be trialled on flights to Ajaccio in Corsica this week, with Air France and Air Corsica informing their eligible customers beforehand. This will be followed by trials to France’s overseas territories in the next few weeks.

French citizens who have taken a Covid test will now receive a text or email from the lab with a document featuring a QR code, which can be scanned to upload test results (both PCR and antigen) directly to the app. Those who do not wish to use the app can print out a certificate instead, which also features the QR code. According to Le Monde, this will be extended to incorporate vaccination results from April 29.

Greece

Greece has signed agreements with Israel and Cyprus to enable vaccinated citizens to move freely between the three countries.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister, said:

“I expect what we will be doing with Israel to be a trial run of what we can do with other countries.”

Israel

Israel’s health ministry has issued a “green passport” app which is eligible for people one week after the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine or for those who have recovered from the virus.

Green passport holders can access hotels, sports and cultural events, swimming pools and places of worship.

Spain

Health minister Salvador Illa said that the country will create a database of people who refuse to be vaccinated, with the information shared with other European nations. The list would not be made public or accessible to employers. Speaking to La Sexta television, Illa stated:

“People who are offered a therapy that they refuse for any reason, it will be noted in the register… that there is no error in the system, not to have given this person the possibility of being vaccinated.”

Spain is also considering introducing bilateral deals with countries such as the UK to boost travel this summer, according to the country’s Tourism Minister.

Sweden

Sweden followed its Nordic neighbour’s example and announce that it will create a digital vaccine certificate to prove vaccination status. The Swedish government has stated that it hopes to have the infrastructure in place by June.

UK

The Roadmap Review Update published on April 5 states:

“The Government believes that Covid-status certification could have an important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure.”

“Certification has already become a feature of international travel, with the UK and many other countries requiring evidence of a negative test pre- departure as part of their border regimes. The Government expects such requirements to continue and is exploring ways of making certification of testing more digital and integrated – as well as considering the implications of vaccines and what certification may be required around them.”

In terms of the domestic use of such passports, the review states:

“The Government believes that there are some settings (such as essential public services, public transport and essential shops) where COVID-status certification should never be required, in order to ensure access for all…

“Covid-status certification could potentially play a role in settings such as theatres, nightclubs, and mass events such as festivals or sports events to help manage risks where large numbers of people are brought together in close proximity.”

The government will continue to take into account the ethical considerations of such ‘passports’ and look at “appropriate exemptions for people for whom vaccination is not advised and repeat testing is difficult.”

To find out more about the challenges with adopting vaccine passports, read our feature:

Vaccine passports – arguments for and against

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