Skip to main content

Why COVID-19 ‘Vaccine Passports’ Won’t Change the Face of Travel

Why COVID-19 'Vaccine Passports' Won't Change the Face of Travel
Image used with permission by copyright holder

After shuttering its doors for more than 12 months, the travel industry is finally getting back to something approaching “normal.” Some are saying this year is shaping up to be much, much different than any year in history, however. Throughout the world, international travelers face strict regulations, including quarantine, mandatory COVID-19 tests at the airport, and more. So-called “vaccine passports” (sometimes incorrectly called “immunity passports”) may be a way to streamline the whole process. But will they irreversibly change the future of travel? The short answer is no. Here’s why.

Related Guides

Vaccine certificates or “vaccine passports” are nothing new. Anyone who’s traveled to more exotic destinations knows that they’re often required. Costa Rica, Morocco, and Thailand, for example, all require proof of yellow fever vaccination. Since 1959, the Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) — often just the “Yellow Card” or Carte Jaune — has become the standard. Foreign visitors are required to flash this official paper certificate to border patrol in these and many other countries to prove they’ve been inoculated before they’re allowed entry. It’s so common, in fact, that the Centers for Disease Control has a dedicated tool to help travelers know which countries require the vaccine and which health providers in their area can wrangle the necessary paperwork beforehand. In addition to yellow fever, some countries also use vaccine passports to screen visitors for polio and meningococcal meningitis — both of which could devastate an at-risk population.

Yellow Fever Vaccine Requirements by Country
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The reason for such certificates is obvious. If there’s one thing most sane people can agree on politically, it’s that national governments have a right — a duty, really — to protect their people. That means shutting down potential threats of disease at the border through any means necessary. You, as a guest of your next destination, don’t have a right to infect that destination’s population with your filthy germs. It’s hard to imagine that this could even be controversial. For nearly a century, the concept has been used worldwide to help eradicate or, at the very least, control the spread of everything from yellow fever to cholera to typhus. We continue to use it because it works.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a December 2020 MSNBC interview that the concept of COVID-19 vaccine passports was “at least interesting enough to consider.” The government’s hinting at this sparked renewed outrage among libertarians and anti-maskers convinced the concept further erodes our freedoms. It has become yet another flashpoint in the drama surrounding the global pandemic with cries of government overreach and invasion of privacy. Many of the same people argue that mandated vaccine passports will indelibly change the face of travel. But much of the world has already been using them for the better part of a century. Again, this is nothing new.

Here at home, Dr. Fauci has noted it’s unlikely the federal government will ever mandate vaccine passports for domestic travelers. He said on the Politico Dispatch podcast, “I doubt that the federal government will be the main mover of a vaccine passport concept.” The choice and the responsibility to require vaccine passports will fall to the local level. It will be up to state and town governments to enforce vaccine passport requirements or not. Some states like Florida have already outlawed them, and other states are likely to follow suit. For travelers, even to pro-passport states, it’s unlikely to affect their day-to-day movements except at large events like concerts, sporting arenas, or large business conferences where organizers may require them. Airlines may also opt to require them for a brief time before the country achieves herd immunity. But is that really such a high price to pay for us to help keep everyone safe?

If you’re itching for a vacation right now but can’t — or don’t want to — deal with the red tape of traveling abroad, the CDC recently announced that vaccinated Americans can safely travel domestically. Yes, “you are now free to move about the country.”

Topics
Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
Has COVID-19 Made Hotels More Sustainable?
hotels sustainability covid19 towels on bed in hotel room

From carbon offsets to those cool keycard holders that make sure the lights in your hotel room turn off when you leave, the travel industry has been reevaluating its environmental impact in recent years, taking steps toward more sustainable and eco-friendly practices. And one of the areas where this switch is most apparent and publicized is where you start and end each day of your vacation (and maybe spend all your time if it’s one of those lie-around-and-do-nothing trips): your hotel.
Related Guides

How to Prepare for and Stay Safe at a Hotel Right Now
How Do Hotel Star Ratings Actually Work?
Should You Travel After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Read more
Curaçao Welcomes Digital Nomads to Work Remotely from the Beach for Six Months
On the beach in Curacao

It feels like we might finally be in the home stretch of this pandemic. Sure, we’ll probably all be wearing face masks and bathing in hand sanitizer for the foreseeable future, but life is otherwise slowly returning to normal. That means most of us can start traveling again. If you’ve been dying to get out of the house and maybe make a big career change in the process, the island of Curaçao has a program for you. All you need is a laptop, a love of the beach, and the ability to uproot your life for at least six months.
Related Guides

When Will It Be Safe to Book Travel Again?
Should You Travel After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine?
Countries Vaccinated Americans Can Travel To Right Now

Read more
CDC to Vaccinated Americans: You’re Now Free to Roam The Country (With Caution)
cdc vaccinated americans travel traveler wearing a facemask at the airport and looking flight schedule

Like our favorite suits and local restaurants, 13-odd months of avoiding domestic and international travel has finally reached a breaking point. After not seeing anything more exotic than Netflix and the produce aisle, we've grown delirious with longing. We can hear the flutter of Japan's cherry blossoms. We can envision the Dutch tulips. Well, good news, all of you who have developed an acute case of cabin fever: On April 2, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines for both domestic and international travel for fully vaccinated adults. Translation: anchors away.
Related Guides

Countries Vaccinated Americans Can Travel To Right Now
Should You Travel After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine?
Future of Post-Pandemic Restaurants

Read more