TAMPA, Fla. - More people are getting on planes this spring, and even anticipating summer travel, now that access to the COVID-19 vaccine spreading, but before you get on that plane, you may need to prove your vaccination and health status with a vaccine passport.
Countries around the world are debating whether to use health credentials for international and domestic travel, and some countries like Israel already use a "green pass" for travel and attending gatherings within the country.
"It’s likely that if the pandemic and the disease do not go away that we’re going to have to have some kind of passport," said Dr. Jay Wolfson, a public health professor at USF Health in Tampa.
A vaccine passport is a document that gives verified proof you were vaccinated or tested negative for the virus, and countries are doing their own version of them.
"Who’s going to do this? Will the world health organization do it? Will state health departments do it or will private sector companies do this?" said Wolfson.
The International Air Transport Association developed an app called IATA Travel Pass to hold those health credentials, and they’re currently testing the app with several airlines on international flights.
International Air Transport Association IATA Travel Pass app
On the app, IATA spokesperson Perry Flint sent FOX 13 a statement saying in part: "It’s important to note that it is governments, not airlines, that make the rules on border entry requirements. The purpose of the IATA Travel Pass is to help travelers more easily manage these government-imposed health-related border entry requirements. All information regarding testing or vaccine certificates is stored on the user’s own mobile device. No central database of this information exists. Furthermore, with the IATA Travel Pass, the user is in complete control of the vaccine or testing information and it is up to them to decide whether they wish to share this information with the airline or government.
IATA said it is against a mandatory vaccine passport for travel because it discriminates against people not able to get the vaccine, the idea risks discrimination where vaccines aren’t available or risks discriminating against areas where vaccines take longer to become widely available.
Some countries are using health passes for travel within their own country. Some epidemiologists shared their thoughts against that idea with Governor Ron DeSantis Thursday.
"We're now going to then turn around and say ‘you have to have a vaccine passport in order to participate in American life,' it's going to be a new vaccine Jim Crow," said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University Medical School.
Some argue it can ease anxiety with travel and add a sense of safety. Airlines in the U.S. said they want some universal guidelines for health cards.
In a statement to FOX 13, the trade group Airlines for America senior vice president of Legislative and Regulatory Policy Sharon Pinkerton said: "We continue to encourage the federal government to take a global leadership role in setting standards for temporary COVID-19 health credentials (CHC) that promote simple and secure identity verification, protect the privacy of health records and validate the legitimacy of test or vaccine records. We believe that such federal standards will protect against the risk of fraudulent documents and instill an additional layer of confidence in the traveling public."
Airlines for America said they are staying in contact with government agencies as they develop public health measures.
The CDC doesn’t have any rules for traveling, but it does not recommend non-essential travel. Governor DeSantis said Florida will not participate in vaccine passports.