Globe Aware volunteers who want a digital option of always whipping out their vaccine card, can choose from plenty of apps. Here's a breakdown of which one is right for you.
Which Vaccine Passport App Should I Use?
For those who want a digital option instead of always whipping out their vaccine card, there are plenty to choose from.
BY SHANNON MCMAHON
September 2, 2021
Planning travel abroad might have you wondering what kind of vaccine passport app you’ll need to download on your phone to confirm your vaccination or proof of a negative test upon entry. But with the highly contagious Delta variant causing a rise in cases in the U.S., you don’t need to leave the country anymore to run into coronavirus vaccination requirements.
While you might have first heard of coronavirus vaccination apps for international travel, like the European Union’s Green Pass or airline-favorite VeriFly, the United States has not designated any one technological standard for proof of vaccination. It’s up to states (and often individual businesses, like performance venues) to decide if they’ll require proof of vaccination, and which digital service they might employ to avoid counterfeit vaccination cards and streamline the process. Since New York City, San Francisco, and the State of Hawaii have begun requiring proof of vaccination to participate in activities like indoor dining, several digital vaccine passport apps are becoming more popular for travel and entertainment. From government-created options to private technology creating their own health passes, here are several vaccine apps travelers are likely to encounter.
Apps that simply store your vaccine card: Clear, VaxYes, and Airside
While many destinations and businesses are accepting Centers for Disease Control (CDC) vaccination cards as proof of vaccination, it can be unnerving to walk around with your original coronavirus vaccine certificate. While some places may accept a smartphone photo of your white CDC card, it’s far from a reliable approach: Enter the vaccine card app, which allows you to upload proof of vaccination and a form of identification to create a vaccine-status QR code. This allows you to give businesses only the information they need from you—your vaccine status, and none of your other sensitive personal information—and provides peace of mind that you won’t lose your vaccine card.
Perhaps the most familiar app to travelers that will digitize your vaccine card is Clear, the biometric service that existed pre-pandemic as a way to skip identity screening lines at airport security (and is often paired with TSA Precheck, a separate service, to breeze through security). Amid the pandemic Clear saw an opportunity to create a secure COVID-19 vaccine passport, called Clear Health Pass: The service, which lives in the free Clear app, requires users to upload (via smartphone camera) a photo ID, your CDC-issued vaccination card, and a selfie, as well as answer some questions about when and where you were vaccinated. Similar services include Airside and VaxYes, however Clear is widely considered more secure for its photo ID requirement; the city of San Francisco, for example, requires businesses to crosscheck a photo ID against apps like Airside and VaxYes’s level-one version, but does not require this for Clear.
State-designated health passes: Excelsior, Hawaii Safe Travels
While the U.S. did not designate any one proof-of-vaccine app for optional use, some U.S. states have. New York State became the nation’s first state to do so this spring with its Excelsior Pass; the app, which is for those vaccinated in New York State, cross checks state vaccine records to verify a vaccine card. An app called NYC COVID Safe is also permitted in New York City for those who were vaccinated outside of the state (although it does not cross-check out-of-state vaccination records, and for that reason functions more similarly to Clear, VaxYes, and Airside).
The state of Hawaii’s Safe Travels Program functions similarly to the NYC COVID Safe app by requiring visitors to upload their CDC card, although the program is a website login portal and not an app; it still requires visitors to have their original vaccination card on them. The state has also designated Clear as acceptable supplemental proof of vaccination (again, in addition to your original CDC card) that travelers can link to the Safe Travels program to speed up their verification on arrival.
International health-record apps: CommonPass, VeriFly
There are also some multi-use coronavirus record apps out there that can serve as proof of both vaccination and test results to satisfy entry requirements in other countries. CommonPass and VeriFly, which started as apps offering coronavirus test results for travel, both now serve as proof of vaccination for certain airlines. American Airlines, Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, and Japan Airlines use VeriFly, which was created by biometrics company Daon, where testing and proof of vaccination are required. United, Hawaiian Airlines, Lufthansa, and JetBlue use CommonPass—an app developed by the nonprofit Commons Project and the World Economic Forum.
Foreign national health passes
Outside the U.S., many nations have opted for a single national health pass to avoid this patchwork of apps and services, and to standardize digital proof of vaccination. Canada’s migration app, for example, is ArriveCAN; France’s Pass Sanitaire ("health pass") app is required of all French who want to dine indoors, and is an option for Americans who get a health provider like a pharmacist to enter their CDC vaccine card into the French national system; Germany has tapped private app CovPass for digital proof of vaccination among its residents. There is also Europe's broader Green Health Pass, which is for use by Europeans but officials have said will become available to foreign travelers with approved vaccinations.
All nations have differing requirements and exceptions for these apps, however, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the system before planning any travel abroad, and to always carry your original vaccine card on you, somewhere secure. The benefit of having a digital vaccine pass to back it up is that you won’t always have to have it on you, the same way we travel with our actual passport, but typically avoid toting one around on the ground so we don’t lose it.