COVID-19 pandemic came in the way of all our vacations. All our travel plans for the year 2020 went to waste when the coronavirus took over the world. The virus has infected more than 80 million people worldwide, out of which 1.76 million people lost their lives battling it.
Check out the Winter Travel Guide during pandemic!
Thankfully, with 2021 just around the corner, the future looks bright. The constant struggle of doctors and scientists has finally paid off and we have three different vaccines that'll help us fight the spread of the virus.
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We hope that the way of life will get back to normal and we'll be able to have our long-awaited vacation in the new year.
However, if you want to travel next year, you might need a vaccine passport. Don't know what that is? It's okay, we've got you covered. Here's everything you need to know about it.
What is a Vaccine Passport?
Remember the yellow immunization cards that prove you have been vaccinated against yellow fever? High tech versions of the yellow card are on their way to help travellers prove that they have been administered the COVID-19 vaccine.
Don't know what a yellow immunization card is? That's okay. It's essentially a travel document created by the World Health Organization that records the vaccines the passenger has received.
It's also called the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis and is required to be presented before entering a country with a high health risk for the traveller.
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For the time being, many destinations require COVID-19 test results before passengers are allowed to board aeroplanes. But it won't be long before we have a vaccine passport.
According to Christopher Wolff, the head of mobility at the World Economic Forum, "The role of digital health credentials will be key to enable cross-border travel at a large scale."
The World Economic Forum has partnered with a non-profit organization called Commons Project to create a digital health pass known as the CommonPass. It's one of the tech-solutions that have emerged during COVID-19 that might become the "vaccine passport", that all travellers will have to present when entering countries or getting onto planes.
It's not just the World Economic Forum that's working on making a vaccine passport; many tech firms are trying their hand at this project. IBM has developed an app for companies and ventures to customize their entry requirements such as COVID-19 tests, temperature check and proof of vaccination. This application is called Digital Health Pass.
New Tech – New Challenges
While tech companies are working rapidly to develop a solution that would make travel possible again, there might be new challenges they'll have to combat. Some of these obstacles might include privacy issues, presenting the levels of effectiveness for the different vaccines.
Most importantly, they have to overcome the challenge of avoiding disjointed implementation and the mixed success the tech companies had with their previous attempts to address the public health crisis with contact tracing apps.
Let us elaborate a bit for better understanding.
Earlier in 2020, when the pandemic had just begun, tech giants Apple and Google had joined hands to work on creating a Bluetooth based system, called exposure notification, that would notify smartphone users every time they were in the vicinity of someone who has COVID-19.
What went wrong with this initiative was that many countries and states had to develop their own versions of the app. Because there was a lack of leadership and each state had to figure it out on its own, the app's implementation failed on a very large scale.
The Linux Foundation, a tech-focused public health organization, is helping many countries worldwide fight COVID-19. The organization has also partnered with Common Pass and IBM to develop a set of universal standards for the vaccination records applications.
What's different about this initiative is that The Linux Foundation has over 300 people spread across five continents. This means there will be guidance and leadership that'll help make it a successful venture.
Another challenge that these companies face at the time is access to resources. There's a large population around the globe that doesn't have access to smartphones. In this case, smart cards are also being developed that'll help governments and companies reach a middle-ground, in the sense that it'll be better than paper records or any online versions that can easily be reproduced.
Moreover, once the vaccine passport applications are made, the tech firms will have to ensure that the people are comfortable using them. Their biggest concern is with the handling of private medical records. IBM and CommnPass have reassured that any privacy concerns will be their first and foremost priority.
Users will be asked for their consent to let the application use their medical information; they'll also have full authority on choosing how many details they want to share with the authorities.
Do You Really Need One to Travel Next Year?
The answer to this question is quite tricky. When countries suggested that vaccine passports should be used to let people enter other countries and their workplaces, WHO reacted by saying that there is no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from getting infected for the second time or not, nothing can be said for sure.
Moreover, the UN body argued that there's also no proof of how effective the antibody-mediated immunity is therefor, no accuracy can be guaranteed when it comes to 'immunity passport' or 'risk-free certificate.'
The organization is worried that the use of these certificates might end up increasing the spread of the virus around the world.
Dr Julie Parsonnet, an infectious disease specialist at Stanford University, told CNN that it's unclear how effective the vaccines are in hindering the virus's transmission. "So while a vaccine passport app will show that you've received the shot, it may not be a guarantee that you safely attend an event or get on a flight," she said.
So, to answer your question, until we know for sure if vaccinated people can transmit the infection or not, we won't know if the vaccine passports will be effective or not.
We're sorry if this killed your spirit. In our defence, we want what's best for you. Right now, every one of us must follow the SOPs and precautions that'll help us stay safe from the COVID-19. We suggest you stay put till it's completely safe to travel to another country, however, if you have to travel in case of an emergency, make sure you're wearing your mask, gloves and staying at least 6 feet apart from the other passengers.
With that being said, we hope that shortly we're all able to file our applications for a vaccine passport and get ready to travel to our favourite destinations. Also, don't forget to stay safe while you enjoy December holidays globally!
We wish you good luck with your future travel plans. Bon Voyage!
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