Should Vaccination Certificates Be Required For International Travel?

Digital vaccination cards will reduce fraud
(Vax Before Travel)

Vaccination certificates are nothing new. For many years, various countries required visitors to show proof they had been vaccinated against yellow fever.

Traditionally, yellow fever paper certificates included details such as the date, product, and batch number of the Stamaril or YF-VAX vaccine administered.

However, these paper vaccination certificates were generally fake.  

The new Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates is proposed as a mechanism by which a person’s related health data can be digitally documented via an electronic certificate.

A vaccination certificate can be purely digital (for example, stored in a smartphone application or on a cloud-based server) and replace the need for a paper card or a digital representation of the traditional paper-based record.

The link between the paper record and the digital record can be established using a barcode, for example, printed on or affixed to the paper vaccination card. 

But, digital certificates should never require individuals to have a smartphone or computer, says the WHO.

And the WHO does not support the requirement of proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to travel. 

In some situations, however, depending on the risk assessment of the countries concerned, information about vaccination against COVID-19 may be used to reduce requirements for quarantine or testing upon arrival. 

But this is not the primary purpose of the move towards digital documentation of COVID-19 status.

On August 27, 2021, the WHO published a guidance document for countries and implementing partners on the technical requirements for digital vaccination certificates against COVDI-19. 

The full WHO guidance can be found here

The guidance is part of a series of planning documents on the digitalization of COVID-19 certificates. 

The guidance will, amongst other things, support member states in adopting digital tools for documenting COVID-19 vaccination status for the purposes of effective health care, and proof of vaccination should it be needed for other purposes.

The guidance was developed in collaboration with a multi-disciplinary group of experts to ensure that it will be helpful to governments and implementing partners who have built or who are currently developing systems for issuing or verifying digital vaccination certificates.

The technical content of the guidance has been made available to partner countries and economies that have developed or are in the process of creating national digital vaccination certificates to ensure that these digital certificate products will be interoperable. 

Technical assistance will be provided to countries and implementing partners to align existing products to WHO specifications.

Vax-Before-Travel publishes fact-check research-based news.