Denmark is one of the first countries working on COVID-19 Vaccine Passport. The main goal for this project is to ease the current travel restrictions between countries. Many countries are currently requiring a negative COVID-19 test result to enter the country, including Finland. With a negative test result the traveler can also shorten the recommended self-quarantine time. How will this vaccine passport change traveling as we know it now?
AFAR website released an article in the beginning of February stating that Denmark is one of the first countries developing digital COVID-19 vaccine passport. This passport is intended to show proof that the traveler has received the Covid vaccine, ease the current travel restrictions and shift the world back to normality.
The Finance Minister Morten Boedskov mentioned on the article that the passport should be ready to be released in three to four months. It is an important step for business travel, to get businesses running again and Danish society back on track.
Many Nordic countries already use digital authentication and are functioning almost completely paperless, so it does not surprise that the vaccine passport will be digital and downloadable on a smartphone. Denmark is not the only one on the market though. A Swiss company called CommonPass is a tech company with an app to show information regarding test results and they are saying that they are well equipped to track vaccinations as well. United States will not be left out of this race either and they are saying that Vaccine Passport is coming soon. Many are developing this new vaccine passport and as a regular traveler, my only hope is that these systems are built in collaboration so they will work in harmony at all airports. And there is that question about safety and is my information going to be in jeopardy when downloaded into an app. The article published in New York Times stated that the current global passport system took 50 years to build. Adding the extra security of fingerprints and facial biometric took ten years to accomplish. Just makes me wonder how we can a secure digital vaccine passport be built in three to four months. It is great to have big dreams and hope, but is this being too ambitious?
In any case, the vaccine passport is a step to the right direction to get the world back to traveling and lives looking more normal. Perhaps the travel restrictions will be completely removed once the new digital vaccine passport is up and running. However, that raises the questions, can the COVID-19 vaccine become mandatory to be able to travel?
On AFAR’s article, Estonia informed that they allow passengers into the country if they have proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The vaccine report must be in Estonian, Russian, or English and it needs to meet the set criteria, e.g., which vaccine has the person received and where and when was it given.
Medpage Today interviewed Carmel Shachar, JD, executive director of The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy at Harvard Law School regarding the possibility of mandatory COVID vaccination. Shachar explained that vaccination can be thought from different perspectives, for example if a parent wants to send their child to school, there are some mandatory vaccines the child must have. Or if a person works in healthcare field, they might be required to have certain vaccines to perform in their job. Shachar also continued, that states have broad rules to determine mandatory vaccinations, if it is shown to benefit the common public health. This law is based on Jacobson v. Massachusetts from 1905, but fair to say that world has changed quite a bit since 1905. In United States persons individualism is highly valued and the states cannot just determine that everyone must take the vaccine, at least not that bluntly.
At the end of the day, vaccine certificates are not a new term for travel and many countries do require certain vaccinations when entering the country. On CDC’s website you can check each country’s current regulations of which vaccinations are mandatory and which ones are just recommended. Finland lists mainly recommended vaccines and comparing to India they have a bit longer list of vaccine requirements being also way bigger country than Finland.
Each country can determine their own rules and regulations, but Carmel Shachar also says on the interview, that the vaccine cannot be made mandatory, at least not yet. There is not enough vaccines to go around and not until the world is in a situation when there is more vaccines than people wanting to take it, the discussion around mandatory vaccine cannot happen.
We shall wait and see how travel will change, will Denmark release a COVID-19 passport in the next couple of months, and what our two beloved countries; Finland and USA will do.