The True Scope of Vaccine Passports

By: Adam Messinger & Brendan O’Reilly

After a year of shutdowns, restrictions, and isolation, there is no denying that the level of travel demand, both domestically and internationally, is at an unprecedented high. Individuals of all age groups are itching to escape to destinations far and wide, with 82 percent of American families planning to travel in 2021, according to research reported in Travel Pulse. However, COVID-19 has revolutionized how individuals and businesses travel. With nations still imposing various restrictions on the specific individuals that can cross their borders, a new type of “passport” is being developed to allow safe travel while the global vaccination campaign continues to ramp up.

Commonly known as the “vaccine passport,” an increasing number of countries are expressing their support for the idea. Under the policy, those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 would have the ability to enter a nation’s borders. For example, on March 18th, Iceland communicated that it would finally permit citizens of the United States and beyond to enter their country if they could prove that they are fully vaccinated against the virus. Not only will vaccine passports help to prevent the spread of disease caused by travel in countries such as Iceland, but they will provide an incentive to anyone with travel interests to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

Vaccine passports will allow for expanded destination options for avid travelers while also resulting in a positive externality for society as a whole. Vaccine passports will serve as a huge incentive to get vaccinated, and as more vaccines go into arms, the threat of any one person contracting coronavirus decreases, even if by a marginal amount. Those who are not incentivized to get vaccinated will benefit as well because transmission of the virus dwindles with those who choose to get vaccinated.

A link to a survey regarding upcoming travel plans was sent out to a sample of Vanderbilt students. Of the 63 Vanderbilt undergraduates across all grade levels who chose to respond, 57 (90.5%) asserted that the idea of a vaccine passport would incentivize them to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, showing the true impact that vaccine passports can have on vaccination efforts. 

Vaccine passports are simple but transformative at the same time. While the contents of the passport are basic in terms of simply showing vaccination status, the far-reaching impacts of such “passports” are undeniable. Not only will vaccine passports allow for expanded international destinations and a booming travel industry, they will provide a solid incentive to get vaccinated, ultimately contributing to the global mission to reach herd immunity. 

By Adam Messinger

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