Vaccine passport: Everywhere you could need one — and where you wouldn’t

More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, strategizing for strict lockdowns is slowly giving way to planning an appointment for your coronavirus vaccination. Inoculation promises the ability to not only travel safely again, but also dance in a packed nightclub, see a movie or theater performance, go to the gym or watch a ballgame.

But how do you prove that you’re vaccinated against COVID-19 to anyone asking? One idea is a vaccine passport, which would be a form of digital documentation with a QR code that would let border officials or other gatekeepers quickly verify that you’ve had the shot or shots.

Requiring vaccinations for traveling internationally or taking a cruise is not new, and it’s already happening for COVID-19. But that’s not the only proposed use. Proponents say they also could let you resume more everyday “domestic” activities that are restricted because of the pandemic. That is new territory, and the concept is quickly attracting controversy. Could businesses really require proof of a vaccination that’s strictly voluntary? Here’s what we know about the issue so far.

What is being proposed regarding using a vaccination passport in the US?

At this point, nothing concrete. What’s certain is you won’t need one for personal, necessary activities like going to the supermarket. The most strident opponents of vaccine passports are baselessly warning that that could happen — sadly, passports have already turned into a partisan issue — but no one is seriously proposing it. Employers may require it of their workers, which I’ll cover later.

Where might a vaccine passport be used?

The outlook for the middle ground between shopping and international travel is murkier. Consider restaurants or gyms. Making sure that customers have been vaccinated may feel advantageous for a restaurant owner eager to return to full-capacity dining while protecting the health of employees. Same for a gym owner hoping to resume exercise or spin classes with a bunch of heavily breathing people jammed together. Promoters of large business conferences, concerts, basketball or hockey games and other events where you’re inside with hundreds of people for long periods may be interested, as well.

Those scenarios are plausible and likely legal, but Terry Jones, founder of Kayak and Travelocity and a former CIO of American Airlines, thinks making these situations passport-required is unlikely in the US. Business conventions, for example, take months to plan, and by the time something like CES 2022 happens, COVID in the US may be under control. Jones also thinks it’s unlikely for domestic US flights. “On an everyday scale that won’t be implemented,” he said. “I think we have enough division here around this issue that most places won’t implement them.”

That means the outlook at this point is developing. Some restaurants or events could require proof of vaccination for customers, but they’d largely be in regions of the country that are amenable to their use. And even in those areas, there’d likely be a restaurant down the street that won’t have that restriction. Customers will decide which mandates they’ll tolerate, and business will adjust. Or we’ll see a hybrid model where either a vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will be accepted (more on that later)…Read more>>