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Support for digital health passes high among consumers, government response mixed

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Health passes and the connection they should have to digital identities are being considered by businesses and governments, but also sparking debate. An Amadeus survey of countries where vaccine rollouts are already underway, and found strong support for digital health passes. Some airlines and governments are adopting the digital ID-based solutions, but others are declining and complications are arising, even as a new coalition is launched to provide vaccination management and credentialing.

Most accept health passes, but have some concerns

A study conducted earlier this year by Amadeus and delivered by Censuswide of 9,055 travelers in France, Spain, Germany, India, UAE, Russia, Singapore, the UK and U.S. demonstrates that a majority of travelers in countries with a wider vaccine rollout would be comfortable to use digital vaccination passports to restart travel.

While 91 percent are comfortable with the use of digital health passports, and 41 percent were planning to book international travel following restriction lifting, 93 percent remained concerned about how personal data would be stored.

“This study highlights once more the key role that technology will play in rebuilding travel. We’ve seen a shift since our last survey, as travelers now place more focus on mobile and touchless technology, crucial areas that will clearly strengthen traveler confidence. It’s also very relevant to see that travelers are open to digital health passports and sharing their data as they move through the journey, once the right safeguards are in place. At Amadeus, we’re committed to rebuilding a better industry, together with our customers and partners,” says Christophe Bousquet, CTO at Amadeus.

Digital health passports have been in discussion since the pandemic was officially announced last spring, with some countries and major companies launching plans or trials, many of which incorporate biometrics. India in particular has been an early proponent of leveraging biometrics within the vaccine rollout programs into the country’s digital ID system Aadhaar.

While 72 percent of survey respondents would be willing to store personal travel health data electronically if it enabled them to travel to more destinations, some travelers expressed concerns with security risks of data; including in lack of transparency and control over where the data is shared (30 percent).

The study reiterates the need for companies and governments to carefully examine the design of digital health passports to ensure good governance and compliance with privacy standards before restarting foreign travel.

Debate around adoption

As the travel industry is set to lose $95 billion in 2021 according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), some airlines have adopted the use of new tech solutions to support a health passport or vaccine certificate, reports Executive Traveller.

Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh says advocacy for vaccine passes has not been matched by execution.

IATA has launched a Travel Pass app, currently in use by Singapore Airlines, one of 26 Star Alliance member airlines, to confirm the travel status of passengers travelling between Singapore and London with biometrics. United Airlines, another Star Alliance member, is launching its own Travel Ready platform this month.

The World Economic Forum, meanwhile, is in the midst of developing a collaboration platform for tech, health and mobility industries to establish common standards and sovereignty over individuals’ health information.

Some countries have declined the use of nation-wide passport programmes; “The (U.S.) government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced this week.

The UK is also in debates in parliament as to plans for a vaccine-pass rollout within the country in order to reopen services, though the plan has been under wider criticism from the hospitality and retail industries. International visitors to China will be allowed across the border if able to prove inoculation with a Chinese-produced vaccine, which has not been approved in most of the world.

New coalition to advance digital vaccination management

In December 2020, Allied Identity in collaboration with SICPA launched a comprehensive vaccination management and credentialing platform, Vaxtrac, in order to ensure the security of vaccination records and credentials.

The coalition has now onboarded new members to strengthen the public health-community capacity. American Banknote Corporation (ABCorp), Corvus Biometrics, Equity Health Services, FaceDrive, PASP, AfriDOKTA and Twin Technology make up some of the new members of Vaxtrac.

“Together, Vaxtrac Coalition members leverage their unique expertise and solutions to ensure that strong, secure vaccination management and credentialing solutions reach the markets who need them to help recover from COVID-19 and respond to future infectious disease outbreaks,” says Jeff Hattara, Coalition founder and CEO of Allied Identity.

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