Do I Need a COVID Passport?

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With the COVID-19 vaccine now widely available to anybody 12 and older, you might have heard about the potential for a COVID-19 passport and wonder how it might affect your career and daily life during the coronavirus pandemic. While a COVID passport isn't in use in the United States, some businesses have started requiring vaccination or a negative test for employees and customers, and there's a lot of talk about a standard COVID-19 passport.

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However, the concept of vaccine certificates comes with a lot of debate due to the benefits and also the questions that arise. Here's what you need to know about these passports and how they could affect you.

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What Is a COVID Passport?

While a COVID-19 vaccination card or negative test result might work for gaining access to certain businesses now, various government agencies around the world have worked on a digital passport that would make it easy to check whether people have immunity.

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Government agencies such as public health departments and tech companies have plans for mobile apps that would show a QR code that businesses can scan to verify a person's vaccination and test history. Users would upload their COVID-19 data to their account and use a biometric login such as their face ID for validity and security. A printable alternative may be available for those without phones.

The U.S. government doesn't currently show support for mandating a federal COVID-19 vaccine passport for those living in the country, and some states have passed laws banning the use of such a credential. However, private companies can ask for proof of COVID-19 immunity through measures like a vaccine card or negative COVID-19 test result, and a digital passport app for such a purpose may still show up. Further, the U.S. government has suggested people traveling internationally into the U.S. may need some form of COVID-19 passport.

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On the other hand, European Union has already proposed a government COVID passport called the Digital Green Certificate that would open up travel within the member countries.

The Debate on Vaccine Passports

Requiring a COVID-19 vaccine passport could provide employees and customers with some security that their health is less at risk while working at or visiting the business. This would make it easier for companies to decide when to allow employees to return for on-site work, and customers may feel more comfortable doing business with such a company.

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The COVID passport could also make it easier for everybody to return to everyday life and facilitate reopening for businesses since the credential would make it easy to know who is and isn't immune.

On the other hand, the idea of vaccine passports makes some people concerned about privacy and discrimination, since those without the credential could have fewer opportunities both for work and everyday activities. Some feel uncomfortable about their health information being tracked in an electronic system, especially when the government and private companies get involved. Others feel concerned about the potential for limited employment and travel opportunities for those who opt against vaccination or can't get vaccinated.

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With many variations possible, there could be conflicts over which passports to accept as well as how long they're valid.

How COVID Passports Could Affect You

If having a COVID passport or another proof of vaccination becomes standard, having it could affect your career opportunities and ability to return to work.

Unless the location has a law against requiring vaccination for employment, employers that mandate proof of immunity may opt not to hire or retain workers who refuse to show the credential, unless the employee qualifies for an exemption. This could mean that having the passport means the ability to work on site for more companies, while not having the passport might mean working remotely or needing to find an employer who doesn't mandate it.

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Whether you have a COVID-19 passport can also affect other areas in life. For example, not having one might mean not being able to travel to certain places, attend large events or enter businesses that mandate it. Even now, cruise lines and airports are among some of the businesses requiring proof of vaccination or negative test results, especially if you plan on international travel. Thus, not having the passport or some other proof of COVID-19 immunity can limit your daily activities.

While the future of a COVID-19 vaccine passport isn't certain, you can prepare by keeping the vaccine card safe along with documents related to test results in case you need to present them for work, travel or other daily activities. You should also keep an eye on news announcements as well as keep in touch with your employer about any requirements that may be unveiled.

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