World Reimagined

Most Travelers Support Vaccine Passports

Lone figure walking through Reagan International Airport
Credit: Kevin Lamarque - Reuters / stock.adobe.com

Business travel hasn’t been much of a consideration for even the most tested road warriors for over a year. But as COVID-19 vaccine availability spreads and companies get back to more normal operations, the business (and leisure) travel industry is starting to rev up.

Not everyone is opting in for a jab from Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, though. Some citizens have refused to get vaccines and that has raised concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus – and launched a debate about required documentation of vaccination for travelers. A new survey by the World Economic Forum, however, finds that the people most likely to travel are firmly in favor of Digital Health Passports (aka vaccine passports).

An Ipsos survey for the WEF spoke with 21,000 people in 28 countries. A decisive 78% of them said all travelers entering their country should be required to have a vaccine passport, while 73% said the proof of vaccination would be effective in making travel and large events safe.

The U.S. average was a little lower than the global one, but it was still clearly a mandate. Some 71% of the people surveyed across America support a vaccine passport. (Malaysia and Peru showed the strongest support. Russia, Poland and Hungary showed the least, but still saw more than half the people in favor of the concept.)

Airlines are being a bit more cautious in voicing full-throated support of vaccine passports, but they’re showing signs that they, too, favor the idea.

“There's a lot of different marketing technologies for Digital Health credentials, which I think is probably the more appropriate right versus passport, which gains a lot of negativity, calling them passports,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian in the company’s Q1 earnings call. “[Delta is] working with health providers, technology providers, and our customers to ensure that when they need to show that they've been vaccinated or have been tested, they can do it in as efficient manner as possible.”

Other carriers, though, note that countries that are opening their borders to people who can show proof of vaccination are seeing a surge in tourism.

“We have seen in recent weeks that immediately after a country rise access with proof of a vaccine leisure demand returns to the level of 2019 quickly,” said Andrew Nocella, executive vice president and Chief Commercial Officer at United Airlines on an earnings call. “We've adjusted our schedule to take advantage of these opportunities this spring and summer. A few weeks ago, there was a rumor Greece was going to open. As soon as that rumor occurred, our Greece bookings took off. … Iceland, which also permits access with vaccine proof, is our best booked Atlantic destination this summer.”

The support for vaccine passports in the WEF survey extended far beyond travel. More than 2/3 of the people surveyed were in favor of requiring one to enter stadiums and concert venues. And 55% felt they should be required in shops, restaurants and offices. (Just 37% of the U.S. agreed with that idea. Only Poland and Russia disagreed more.)

Government and health officials acknowledge the problems with vaccine passports. In April, the Biden administration said it will not require any businesses or Americans to use a digital COVID-19 health credential. However, it is working with airlines to develop Federal principals for those credentials that both securely validate vaccination (or test) history and protect personal data. The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has not supported requiring vaccination passports for travel, citing discrimination concerns and uncertainty over whether inoculation prevents transmission.

Should vaccine passports be used in some capacity, even their supporters want them to come with limits. Globally, 64% of the people surveyed by the WEF said they should only remain in use until the end of the year, with half of that group wanting them to only be in use for a few months until infection numbers drop. Respondents in the U.S. were even more in favor of a limited time frame, with 38% wanting them to only be used a few months and 34% saying they should be used at least until the end of the year.

Japan was the only nation where a majority supported requiring vaccine passports for several years or indefinitely.

The WEF survey did, however, highlight some of the discrimination fears the WHO and government officials have warned about. Globally, 46% of people thought banning unvaccinated persons from public events and transport was unfair. But in the U.S. and Canada, more than 60% backed that idea.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Chris Morris

Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience, more than half of which were spent with some of the Internet’s biggest sites, including CNNMoney.com, where he was Director of Content Development, and Yahoo! Finance, where he was managing editor. Today, he writes for dozens of national outlets including Digital Trends, Fortune, and CNBC.com.

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