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Will You Need a Covid-19 Vaccine to Travel?

Awaiting my free JetBlue flight from NYC to Austin
JetBlue in NYC (photo: Dave Lee)

As Covid-19 vaccination efforts are in full swing, people who have spent months in lockdown keep wondering — will we soon get a chance to travel, and, if so, will we need a vaccine?

The answer is probably yes to both, even though regulations can vary depending on the destination. Domestic travel will probably follow some fixed requirements.

International travel is more complex because different countries have different admission rules regarding vaccination and quarantines.

Still, some countries and travel providers have already announced preliminary guidelines. So, let’s take a closer look at what we already know. 

Covid-19 and Travel

Which Health Apps Will We Need for Air Travel?

Airlines, especially international ones, suffered significant losses during the pandemic.

It’s no wonder many businesses are determined to resume their operations as quickly as possible.

Several airlines have already started testing different health apps to help prove the traveler’s Covid-19 test results or vaccination status. 

IATA Travel Pass

One such app is IATA Travel Pass, developed by the International Air Transport Association.

The idea is to store Covid-19 test and vaccination records on your smartphone. The app is currently being tested by a dozen international airlines worldwide. 


Another app actively being tested by various airlines is CommonPass, developed by private organization CLEAR, a non-profit organization Commons Project, and the World Economic Forum.

CommonPass is more complex than IATA’s app because itallows passengers to take a test at home, send it to the lab, and upload the results to the app. 

Right now, fewer airlines are testing CommonPass since it is designed by third parties instead of IATA.

On the other hand, its potential seems more promising than the solution offered by IATA.

If you are going to fly with Virgin Atlantic, United, or Qantas anytime soon, you will have a chance to test CommonPass, too. 

Still, given that all apps store both negative results and vaccination records, the question remains — do you need a test or a vaccine to travel?

According to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, the airline has already made vaccination obligatory for all passengers flying to or from Australia.

Of course, the situation may change, and if you want to keep an eye on what Alan Joyce has to say, check out his list of available social media channels here. You can even look at the common email templates among Qantas employees and reach out to them for updates.

The vaccine might not be necessary for domestic travel, though. According to Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian, obligatory vaccination and even testing can hinder internal flights.

Not that additional paperwork is good for international travel, but regulations between countries leave airlines no other choice. 

Alaska Airlines shares the same ideas and already announced that it would not require vaccination or negative test results.

The airline believes masks and distancing are more than enough to ensure safe air travel.

However, this rule does not apply to international visitors because the US requires all foreigners to have vaccine proof.


To this end, Alaska Airlines has already begun testing another health app, VeriFLY.

VeriFLY will work like a Covid-19 passport, but right now, no one can say for sure how all of these apps will work with paper IDs.

Besides, different countries will probably use different apps, which leads us to the next point. 

Which Countries Will Require Vaccination for Admission?

Our ability to travel will greatly depend on international collaboration. Right now, it seems that a Covid-19 vaccine will act as a free pass to enter any country.

But, before that happens, governments worldwide will have to come up with some international vaccine certificate or, at least, agree to accept certificates issued in other countries.

This process will take time, but fortunately, there is already some progress.

Iceland has already started issuing vaccination certificates and accepting similar certificates from other countries.

Georgia and Romania have made either prior vaccination or Covid-19 testing obligatory to enter.

Both countries are ready to collaborate and accept vaccination proofs issued in other countries. 

However, it is still unclear when a universal admission standard will be outlined, if it ever will be.

After all, different countries have always had different admission rules, even though some common procedures were present.

Right now, it looks like the Covid-19 vaccine will become mandatory in most countries — just like the yellow fever vaccine was necessary when traveling to some African countries.  

On the other hand, certain countries may introduce flexible vaccination and testing requirements based on age and risk status, becoming an additional complication.

So, all international travelers will still need to triple-check the admission rules before they book flights.

Will a Vaccine Become an End for Masks and Distancing?

Very unlikely, and for a good reason. For starters, vaccinated people can still transmit the virus to other non-vaccinated people, as scientists believe.

Besides, there is still too little data on how long the immunity after two rounds of vaccination lasts. 

Then again, allowing some people to walk without masks would be bad for morale because there is a great chance that non-vaccinated people will start taking off masks, too.

That is why experts believe that the same rules will still apply to vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and it will take quite a while before the world gets back to normal. 

On the bright side, some things are already turning for the better. At the very least, some countries are already opening their borders.

The anti-Covid-19 vaccine might not be necessary for all countries, but most of them will probably make it obligatory.

This will cut down costs on testing and help to avoid lengthy self-isolation periods, which is the main obstacle for travel.

So, if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, it looks like you should get an appointment before you can book any travel tickets.


This story is brought to you in partnership with SignalHire.

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