Many countries already require proof of a recent, negative coronavirus test for entry. So far, that documentation has existed almost entirely on paper or on passenger’s phone, and must be confirmed by human eyes at the airport, so checking in for a flight online, or even at an electronic kiosk in the terminal, is out.
As travel restrictions ease, volume will increase, and many nations are expected to begin requiring proof of vaccination (or prior coronavirus infection) to enter, or just to skip the quarantine requirement. More passengers and more documentation requirements will make processing even more unwieldy.
“We have to automate this thing,” said Nick Careen, senior vice president of the International Air Transport Association, an airline industry trade group. “Even if there is never a vaccination requirement approved, there is still going to be a requirement for testing, and we can’t do this manually.”
(Even with an electronic system, officials say, there will be some people who must use paper health documents because they lack access to digital tools.)
No major country has publicly floated vaccine verification for domestic travel. But some governments and businesses already require proof of a negative coronavirus test for entry to certain crowded locations, and a few have started demanding proof of vaccination, increasing the desire for an electronic alternative.
To be most useful, a digital record would have to be widely adopted — by governments checking travelers, by airlines and ship lines screening passengers, by businesses restricting admission and by the hodgepodge of health care providers, government agencies and pharmacies that are giving the shots.