As vaccine deployments accelerate around the world, attention is now turning to vaccines of another type: vaccine passports. Last week, the International Air Transport Association announced the launch of its new digital travel pass as “the way forward” for a quarantine-free recovery. The app, which is tested by 30 carriers, will allow governments and airlines to collect, access and share encrypted information relating to the Covid-19 test and the immunization status of passengers prior to travel. The Economic Forum has created similar applications – ICC AOKpass and CommonPass – to allow travelers to document their health status electronically. Countries like Denmark and Sweden are launching their own health passports, and even tech giants are looking to jump in. What are digital medical passports and will they facilitate a return to the skies this year? What is a vaccination passport? Also known as a digital health pass, a vaccination passport is digital documentation indicating that a person has been vaccinated against a virus, in this case Covid. Stored on a phone or digital wallet, the data is usually presented as a QR code and can also indicate whether a person has tested negative for a virus. Digital health passports are being tested as a way to validate the Covid-19 test and immunization status of individuals.Maskot | Getty Images Such documentation is not without precedent. For decades, people have had to show physical “yellow cards” as proof of vaccination against diseases like cholera, yellow fever and rubella when traveling to certain countries. However, this is the first time that the The industry is rallying to an electronic alternative designed to improve verifiability and bypass some of the bottlenecks caused by paper counterparts. “Imagine the scene if 180,000 people present a piece of paper that needs to be checked and validated,” said Mike Tansey, Managing Director of Accenture, referring to the pre-deliver daily passenger count at Singapore Changi Airport. Do we need digital medical passports to travel? Tansey, who heads Accenture’s APAC travel and hospitality division, has worked with some major airlines on their digital health pass strategies, including three in the United States. He told CNBC’s Global Traveler that these plans have “accelerated” since the vaccine rolled out, and for him the need for such. The obvious answer is yes, we do. Mike Tansey Managing Director, Travel & Hospitality, Accenture “The obvious answer is yes, we do,” Tansey said, when asked if we would need digital health passes to resume travel. called the debates “red herring”. “Governments may not say you have to have one, but the implications of no will be so ludicrous that the travel is not worth it,” he said, referring to extensive and “drastic testing. “. What are the security concerns? Tansey is not alone. Other experts agree that digital health passports may be the fastest and most efficient way to resume international travel. Jase Ramsey, professor of management at the Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University, agreed that the likelihood of adoption was “very high.” But he noted that concerns about security and personal data may make consumers less willing to adopt digital health passes than their physical alternatives. “As with any application that stores medical records, there will be issues of privacy and fraud,” Ramsey said. store medical information displayed as a QR code.da-kuk | E + | Getty Images Accredify is a Singapore-based document accreditation company whose technology is used as part of the Singapore government-mandated Covid-19 pre-travel health exams. He claims that the appeal of digital accreditation systems – like his, which is blockchain-based – is that they are tamper-proof and therefore cannot be tampered with. “Medical documents stored privately and securely on the app are only accessible to user people, giving them the decision of who to share their medical records with and when,” a spokesperson said via email. . Traveler resistance may be overestimated. A recent study by travel news site The Vacationer found that 73.6% of Americans surveyed said they would use a Covid passport or health app in order for airlines to and border authorities can check their vaccination status and test results.Digital health passports will depend on the effectiveness of vaccines. Little is known about whether vaccines prevent the spread of Covid, although research is ongoing. The World Health Organization has urged caution over health passes, telling authorities and tour operators not to introduce proof of vaccination as a condition for international travel. prevention of transmission is not yet clear, and the global vaccine supply is limited. Spokesman World Health Organization “This is because the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing transmission is not yet clear and the global supply of vaccines is limited,” a spokesperson for WHO. existing and pending vaccine passports in the market, and ensuring that user certifications are linked to verified and approved medical facilities, will prove to be a major challenge. “For vaccine passports to be a practical tool internationally, it will require a standardized platform that crosses all borders – like the current passport system,” said Dr Harry Severance, assistant professor at Duke University School of Medicine.WHO is working with agencies such as the International Air Transport Association and the International Civil Aviation Organization to develop standards for digital vaccination cards. He added that his stance on health passes “will evolve as the evidence regarding existing and new Covid-19 vaccines is updated.” What about the social implications? Then, of course, there are the social, legal and political ramifications of a system based on inequitable global access to vaccines and technology. About 3.6 billion people worldwide cannot access the Internet, according to the WHO, and more than 1.1 billion cannot officially prove their identity. For many, paper passes will remain essential. Access to vaccinations is still far from equitable in the worldLuis Alvarez | DigitalVision | Getty Images “People from different countries, regions or communities may not have access to vaccines or Covid-19 tests,” said Dr Sharona Hoffman, professor of bioethics in the Faculty of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, noting that low-income countries may not be. receive vaccinations until 2023 or beyond. “A policy that prevents them from traveling or obtaining other services because of it could be discriminatory and exacerbate socio-economic disparities.” Such systems could also set a precedent among other groups also keen to reopen, such as restaurants and event venues. Indeed, Israel has already created a “green passport” to allow vaccinated citizens to access public places. This week, some US states decided to lift mask warrants, which could make this problem worse. others will follow. As such decisions are made across the country, you may find that the ‘patenting’ of vaccines becomes the norm, “Severance said. What could this mean for the future? Ultimately, the resumption of international travel will depend as much on countries’ willingness to reopen as it does on the travel verification technology in place. In Asia-Pacific, where borders remain largely closed to tourists, governments may move towards bilateral deals, or “travel bubbles,” with some neighbors before opening more widely, said Accenture’s Tansey. An internationally recognized health passport system … may allow us to survive an upcoming pandemic Harry Severance Duke University School of Medicine “The reality … is that we are still six months away from any significant air travel,” he said. “It will only be agreements with one or two places at a time.” Yet, with much of the technology in place and with society evolving into an increasingly digital future, the developments made today in digital medical passports could leave the industry – and society – better prepared for the journey. any potential turbulence ahead. “If we move to an internationally recognized system of passports (or) health surveillance, etc., this will be one facet of a downstream preparedness system that may allow us to survive a pandemic to coming, which might have a worse dynamic than Covid-19, ”Severance said.