OPINION: COVID-19 vaccination cards need a serious update


Wren Johnson


Those who have traveled by plane in the last year are all too familiar with the difficulties presented by COVID-19 restrictions and new safety protocols. Air travel has never been easy and with the pandemic, it has only become more stressful.

As someone who has traveled internationally, the biggest inconvenience is that COVID-19 vaccination cards become null and void even within the United States.

Nearly all international flights and most domestic flights now require that individuals have documented records of COVID-19 vaccinations or that travelers have taken a test within three days before departures. The former is more difficult to obtain than the latter.

Most COVID-19 vaccination cards issued in the United States have the patient’s name, birthday, patient number, type of vaccine and date it was administered. In some cases, there will be a signature from a medical professional, but initials are more common. Because there is no stamp, seal or watermark, these cards have little value to airport personnel.

To travel domestically and internationally, I was required to have a printed and signed document from a healthcare provider with my official vaccination types and dates and COVID-19 testing results. This little piece of paper determined whether I was able to travel or not.

Many countries, such as Germany, Poland, Denmark and Spain have adopted digital certificates via phone apps, according to Forbes. These apps contain QR codes that have proven to make air travel quicker and more efficient. They include all of the same information on America’s standard vaccine cards but with official verification that makes travel much easier.

Individuals with the E.U. Digital Covid Certificate “should be exempted from cross-border travel restrictions,” according to Forbes.

As someone who had to wait hours for official documentation, take several COVID-19 tests and gather stacks of paperwork, the promise of an easier, efficient digital verification method is like the light at the end of the tunnel for domestic and international travel.

An EU Commission spokesperson said in an interview on June 3 that digital certificates could become available to non-EU citizens soon, according to travelandleisure.com. Currently, Americans can even obtain certificates of vaccination that are accepted by applicable European countries simply by asking national authorities.

If the United States were to adopt better vaccination documentation tactics, domestic and international travel could become more accessible to all.