How will individuals prove their COVID-19 vaccination? 5 digital passport Qs, answered 

As the CDC and other government agencies lift restrictions on masks and social distancing for Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19, questions regarding proof of vaccinations and digital passports have emerged. 

U.S. officials have said they largely are relying on people being honest about their vaccine status, and many retailers like Walmart and Costco and hotel chains have said they don't plan to check for a proof of vaccine, according to a May 22 CNBC report. 

Here are five questions, answered about digital health passports and what Americans are required to have to prove COVID-19 vaccination: 

Do U.S. residents need one? 

Digital health passports are not mandatory in the U.S., but other countries that have recently opened or plan to open their borders to foreign travelers like Iceland and Greece are requiring tourists to show proof that they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or proof of a recent negative test. These certificates can be in paper or electronic forms, according to CNBC

Since January, the U.S. has required all inbound travelers from abroad to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, even if they are vaccinated. 

Who is building the digital passports? 

There are several digital health platforms for vaccination credentials already available. IBM created New York's Excelsior Pass, which began testing at a New York Nets game in February. The International Air Transport Association developed its own digital health passport, and some airlines such as JetBlue Airways are piloting a digital health passport from the Commons Project Foundation. 

The European Union and Israel are building their own digital health passports. 

Why are they controversial? 

Digital health passports have stirred concerns over how secure and private people's data will be with third-party apps storing and sharing their sensitive health information. The technology also has raised concerns over inequality, since the platforms typically are tied to individuals' smartphones. 

Several states, including Florida, Texas and Arizona, have banned the use of vaccine passports by businesses, and the World Health Organization said it is against making people prove their vaccination status to enter a country "given the limited (although growing) evidence about the performance of vaccines in reducing transmission and the persistent inequity in the global vaccine distribution," according to the CNBC report. 

Are businesses violating HIPAA if they ask their customers if they have been vaccinated? 

Businesses can ask maskless patrons if they've been vaccinated for COVID-19, according to a May 21 Newswise report. HIPAA applies to healthcare-related businesses, such as health plans and healthcare providers. 

"HIPAA does not apply to individuals or non-health care related businesses and therefore has no application to businesses who ask patrons if they have been vaccinated," Richard Tarpey, assistant management professor at Middle Tennessee State University's business college, told the publication. 

How long will people need to verify vaccination? 

It remains unclear how long people will need to show their vaccination status for traveling or other activities. The practice is linked to other COVID-19-era rules such as wearing masks on planes or public transportation, according to CNBC.  


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