What You Need to Know About Vaccine Passports

Your vaccination record will be the ticket to a return to normal.

As the number of people vaccinated increases and the number of COVID cases decreases, we're seeing a big shift back toward normal. Some European countries—including France and Spain—will reopen to travelers early this summer. And events like baseball games, concerts, and shows are starting to reemerge. (You can even get tickets to Hamilton right now.)

But access to some of these events and destinations are expected to be limited to people who can show that they've been vaccinated, had a recent negative test, or are recovering from a recent bout of COVID.

vaccine passports: cell phone and vaccine
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Enter the vaccine passport. Whether you choose to tote along your vaccine record or opt to upload your information to one (or more) of the vaccine apps that make it fast and easy to show that you have been vaccinated, you'll need to have this info handy.

Here's what you need to know about vaccine passports.

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Vaccinations will be required for most international travel

Most international destinations are requiring proof of vaccination in order to avoid lengthy quarantines upon arrival—or even to be allowed in the country altogether. "Vaccines will be critical for anyone who wants to travel, at least in the near- to mid-term," says Molly Fergus, general manager of TripSavvy. "You’ll have more options for where you can go and what you can do. But perhaps most critically, if you’re away and legal restrictions change, you can be confident that you’re covered."

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You'll need the vaccine for local events, too

While some outdoor events may be open to unvaccinated people, events that limit their audience to vaccinated people are often allowed to increase their capacity—which makes it enticing for many event producers to require vaccines to get into the event. And already, many of the first events on sale now are requiring proof of vaccination.

"Although the Biden administration has said it will not implement a federal vaccine passport or mandate, major cities like New York are requiring vaccine passports to enter large sporting events, concerts, and other gatherings that have been very limited until now," Fergus says.

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You might need to make some room on your smartphone

There are several apps being used to give quick access to your vaccinated status for events—but so far, there's been no consolidation around a single version. "It would be great if one front-runner emerged, but right now it seems that every city, state, and country is setting its own rules for handling vaccine passports," Fergus says. "Find some space on your phone if you plan to travel a lot this summer."

If you're in (or traveling to) New York, Excelsior will be necessary, while Clear remains a popular option for many venues.

And you may still need your actual CDC record, too. "I would recommend bringing your vaccination record with you abroad, just in case any regulations change or local authorities don’t recognize the app you have downloaded," Fergus says.

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Vaccine passports aren't a HIPAA violation

HIPAA protects you from your doctor, clinic, or other health professional providing information about your health or vaccination status without your consent. However, you're certainly free to share your own medical information with anyone—including the ticketing staff at your favorite band's concert.

While you can choose not to share that information, a private business is also allowed to refuse you service (and a country can refuse you entry) if you don't show you've been vaccinated.

"Traveling is a privilege, and we’re lucky to have opportunities to see different cultures and communities," Fergus says. "Consider getting your vaccine an act of protection for the places you want to visit. The vaccine passport is simply proof that you’ve prepared appropriately, just as showing a visa or an actual passport is documentation that you are qualified to enter another country."

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