What exactly is a vaccine passport? And do you need one?

There is increasing discussion about vaccine passports for international travel as evidence of full vaccination against the COVD-19 virus, but the term is a bit of a misnomer.

It has nothing to do with a government issued passport such as those that hold our foreign stamps for arrivals.

“The reason why I don’t love the term ‘vaccine passport’ is that I think it leads a lot of folks incorrectly to assume it is something they have to go out and buy or obtain. In reality, ‘vaccine passport’ is just a name for a concept of making international travel or other things more accessible,” said Scott Keyes, of the travel comparison and advise site Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Your white CDC card that shows you’ve been fully vaccinated is, at least for now, sufficient evidence for entry to countries that are currently welcoming vaccinated U.S. travelers. While several countries accept only a yellow WHO vaccine passport — officially, an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis — as proof of vaccination against certain diseases, no country requires it for COVID-19.

Free digital apps are also on the way. Two examples are Travel Pass and CommonPass. They store your vaccination record, a good backup if your card is lost or damaged.

That white card can act as a sort of a toll lanes E-ZPass.

“If you’ve been vaccinated, you can just breeze through at customs and immigration if you’re traveling somewhere that allows vaccinated folks to bypass testing requirements,” Keyes said.

“But if you’ve not been vaccinated, you can still travel. You’re just going to have to get a negative test before you travel, or in some cases, be subjected to a mandatory quarantine when you arrive.”

Virtually every country implementing a fast lane for vaccinated travelers does require them to be fully vaccinated — meaning it’s been two weeks since your second shot (or your one shot if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine)., Keyes said.

A growing list of countries now allow visitors with proof of vaccination to bypass testing and quarantine requirements.

Of note, there has not actually been a single destination to date that has announced they will only allow vaccinated travelers to come. CNN maintains an up-to-date list of which countries are accessible to U.S. travelers — those that do require a negative test, and a handful that don’t.

And for those traveling domestically, Hawaii is the only state that requires U.S. citizens to show a recent negative test, but Hawaii may soon allow vaccinated travelers to bypass that requirement.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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