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Lt. Governor Wants to Give Vaccinated Hawaii Residents More Travel Options

Hawaii Governor David Y. Ige via Flickr

The state rolled out its vaccine passport system this week, making inter-island travel easier for people who were vaccinated in Hawaii. Lieutenant Governor Josh Green says he'd soon like to use the system for vaccinated residents returning to the islands from the mainland.

The program allows residents to skip COVID-19 testing and the 10-day quarantine rule for inter-island travel. You must wait 14 days after the final dose, or the single dose in the case of Johnson & Johnson, before using this method.

Officials say they have easy access to state vaccination records, so only those who have been fully vaccinated at clinics on the islands can participate at this time. Anyone caught with a fake vaccination card is subject to hefty fines, jail time or both.

"It gets checked and then we actually check the card. This is very important for listeners to know, we do insist that people bring their card with them," he said.

Green talked about the inclusion of vaccine cards into the Safe Travels program as well as a time frame for expansion. Below are highlights from his interview with The Conversation’s Russell Subiono, edited for length and clarity.

On phasing in the vaccine passport system

For phase one, it's just inter-island travel and it has to be a vaccination that was completed in Hawaii so that we can check it, if necessary. After phase one, we hope to use it for resident travel from the mainland to Hawaii. Then phase three will be opening it up to the mainland with the same criteria, except that you would have been able to get your vaccine anywhere. We need partners, that we're putting in place, to verify vaccinations. It's part of a phased-in approach to enhance Safe Travels and if people happen to not want to be vaccinated, then they can just use the pretest like before.

Why is it only open to people vaccinated in the state?

The Governor wanted to stick with a basic process that we could verify, if necessary. So when we upload it, we have a lot of capacity to check vaccination records here. If you've done it at Queen's, Hawaii Pacific Health, Kaiser or at the Department of Health, we can check. We have artificial intelligence programs that can check some of these basic pieces of information, though I don't think it's going to be a big problem. I don't think significant numbers of people will defraud us. It’s a felony, I understand, if you falsify a federal document. The Governor wanted to just be safe and start slowly.

If this goes well like it did this morning, in two weeks I'll ask him to expand it to travel from the mainland for local residents that we can confirm. And then a few weeks later to the mainland travelers wherever they are, whether it's in New York, California, Florida, anywhere in the mainland.

On safeguards in place to catch fraud

It gets checked and then we actually check the card. This is very important for listeners to know, we do insist that people bring their cards with them. So you upload it, but then bring your card because we can check a person's birth date on the card and you can tell whether the card is legit or not. I saw dozens and dozens of people today and they were happy to show me their cards and we were having a good chat about it. Over 7,000 people have already uploaded their vaccination cards. There does not seem to be much worry about privacy. Most people are just really eager to not have to do the test when they travel.

On the success of the program

There were some process challenges with all of these Safe Travels programs, but I've been really proud of Doug Murdock and his team--they've really stepped up. Though there are occasional moments that concern people, we've had over 3 million people go through the Safe Travels program and on multiple occasions, amended it and improved it. They've been up to the task and it's clear because a lot of people have traveled here safely and our economy is starting to return. So it's been a very important part of this experience.

This story aired on The Conversation on May 12, 2021.

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