Some countries could require ‘vaccine passports’ by summer 2021

While proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required for anyone traveling to the United States, so-called "vaccine passports" could be the latest development for some European countries in curbing the spread of the virus globally. 

Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires anyone flying to the U.S. to show proof of a negative coronavirus test. 

On Feb. 8., Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg hinted that the CDC was considering whether to impose requiring negative COVID-19 tests for domestic airline flights as well. Speaking during an interview with Axios’ Mike Allen in an episode that aired Sunday, Buttigieg said, "There's an active conversation with the CDC right now."

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In an email to FOX TV Stations, the CDC did not explicitly mention the possibility of requiring some form of "vaccine passport" for travel but said, "as effective vaccines become more widely available in the U.S. and internationally, they can be used to reduce the risk of travel-related transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 and the movement of the virus from one location to another."

"Vaccination, along with other preventive measures, including testing before and after travel, wearing a mask, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, will be another effective strategy available for reducing COVID-19 transmission associated with travel," the CDC spokesperson added. 

The coronavirus has caused a near-total halt in international travel as countries try to contain the spread of the virus. Major European airlines, for example, are flying a tenth of their normal traffic.

On Feb. 11, President Joe Biden said his administration purchased enough doses of coronavirus vaccines to vaccinate every American by July. 

Until enough people have been vaccinated to ensure mitigating the spread of the deadly virus, some nations have already begun working to develop some form of health documentation that would be required for individuals to travel freely. 

On Feb. 10, Denmark’s government said it is joining forces with businesses to develop a digital passport that would show whether people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, allowing them to travel and help ease restrictions.

Finance Minister Morten Boedskov told a news conference that "in three, four months, a digital corona passport will be ready for use in, for example, business travel."

"It is absolutely crucial for us to be able to restart Danish society so that companies can get back on track. Many Danish companies are global companies with the whole world as a market," he added.

As a first step, before the end of February, citizens in Denmark would be able to see on a Danish health website the official confirmation of whether they have been vaccinated.

"It will be the extra passport that you will be able to have on your mobile phone that documents that you have been vaccinated," Boedskov said. "We can be among the first in the world to have it and can show it to the rest of the world."

The Common Trust Network, a partnership between airlines, the World Economic Forum and the non-profit The Commons Project, recently introduced the CommonPass App. (Commons Project.)

The Danish government said it will decide later on whether the digital passport should be used for purposes other than travel to help reopen public life.

Shortly after Denmark’s announcement, Sweden said earlier this month it will be launching a digital coronavirus "vaccine passport" to allow people who have been vaccinated to travel.

Digitalization Minister Anders Ygeman said three authorities in Sweden had been asked to work on producing the certificate, and the plan is to coordinate it with the World Health Organization and the European Union.

Ygeman told a news conference that vaccination certifications will likely be required for travel and "possibly taking part in other activities" when Sweden and neighboring countries start to open up again.

On Tuesday, Estonia said it will allow passengers arriving into the country with a proof of COVID-19 vaccination to avoid quarantine requirements.

The Baltic country said that the certificate must meet certain criteria, including information saying when the vaccine was made, which vaccine was used, the issuer of the vaccine and the vaccine batch number. The certificate must be in either in Estonian, Russian, or English.

The U.K. has said it is not considering issuing such a passport for those who have been given the coronavirus vaccine, but added a doctor could provide written proof of vaccine status if needed for travel. Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said Feb. 7 that vaccine passports would be discriminatory and officials did not want getting vaccinated to be "made in some way mandatory through a passport."

Still, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce have joined a broad coalition of technology and health care companies to create the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), which aims to accelerate access to COVID-19 vaccination records by creating a digital passport.

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The technology would allow individuals to obtain a copy of their immunization records through a digital wallet of their choice, such as Apple Wallet or Google Pay, while those without smartphones would receive paper printed with QR codes containing verifiable credentials. In addition, the VCI said it will also try to develop new standards to help determine whether a person has or hasn’t been inoculated against the virus.

Other health care and technology leaders involved in the initiative include the Commons Project Foundation, the CARIN Alliance, Cerner, Change Healthcare, Epic, Evernorth, the Mayo Clinic, MITRE, and Safe Health.

A spokesperson for Microsoft told FOX Business that the tech giant has already developed an implementation guide detailing "the use of open, interoperable, and privacy-protecting standards via the SMART Health Cards framework" as part of the VCI.

Tech company IBM also recently unveiled its Digital Health Pass. The program allows companies and organizations to create their own requirements including test results, proof of vaccination or temperature checks.

Ticketmaster is drawing up plans to get people to safely return to music venues. Concertgoers may have digital tickets that will either show if they had a COVID-19 vaccine or tested negative for the virus leading up to the day of the event. The information will be stored with a third-party health care provider in compliance with HIPPA laws.

The ticket sales and distribution company said it would be strictly up to venues to determine and enforce a policy.

Chris Williams, FOX Business and the Associated Press contributed to this story.