The Need for Compatibility of Digital Vaccine Certificates

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Vaccine certificates are growing as a popular way of helping countries reopen international travel and promote economic recovery. Different countries have come up with a variety of COVID-19 vaccination certificates with varying information and formats.  There is a need for compatibility of digital vaccine certificates.

Some of these certificates come in different languages, which creates a problem when the holder wants to travel to another country. In some cases, the differences in vaccines used in different countries make it impossible for some people to travel to other countries.

AP News highlighted one such case where a couple vaccinated with two doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Nigeria was banned from travelling to certain European countries. This highlights a problem with differing opinions about the effectiveness of certain vaccines. However, the same problem arises with the lack of recognition of certain vaccine certificates themselves.

British tourists, for instance, still have a problem travelling to countries in the EU bloc. The EU says it plans to recognize the NHS COVID pass ‘soon’. However, lack of acceptance will continue as a problem when vaccinated people travel from one region to another.

The lack of compatibility has also compelled countries like Switzerland to require tourists from certain countries to pay a fee to have their vaccine certificates converted into one that Switzerland recognizes.

Creating a Harmonized System

The challenges travellers face when their vaccine passports are rejected at certain destinations highlight the need for a compatibility.

The EU bloc has taken the step to develop a bloc-wide EU pass that allows vaccinated citizens of member states to travel within the bloc.

For digital COVID-19 vaccine certificates to be useful for international travel, common standards are important.

The need for a standardized system has led the WHO to initiate the Smart Vaccination Certificate. The WHO intends to establish standards, key specifications, and a trust framework for digital vaccine certificates.  This can then be applied to other vaccines.

Meanwhile, although the progress is slow, countries are beginning to accept certificates from other countries. In some cases, countries provide alternative steps for travellers to enter, such as by providing a negative COVID-19 test.

How You Can Travel to Other Countries

Most countries have developed a digital or paper-based form of COVID-19 vaccine certificate. However, compatibility problems could easily disqualify a fully vaccinated person from travelling to another destination.

Before you start your journey to another country, check their travel website to determine whether they recognize vaccine certificates from your country.

Some countries like France allow non-European nationals in the country to apply for a COVID-19 certificate that is valid in France. However, the country still requires you to have received one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the EU.

What the Future of Vaccine Certificates Holds

The yellow vaccine card set a precedent for the effectiveness of mutually recognizable vaccine certificates. However, with COVID-19 vaccine certificates, countries have yet to agree on a universally accepted standard. The EU has an inclusive system for all EU member states.  But, certificates from outside the bloc may be unacceptable within the bloc. WHO and other stakeholders have taken steps to encourage the interoperability and mutual recognition of vaccine certificates.  However, travelers may have to undergo quarantine and testing requirements upon arrival.




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