Asia Minute: Vaccine Passports, No International Agreements Soon

Apr 5, 2021

Late last week, the CDC said people who are fully vaccinated can travel “at low risk to themselves.” That helps bring a closer focus on the idea of “vaccination passports”—a concept under review in several Asian countries.

South Korea’s Prime Minister says an electronic “vaccine passport” is on the way for his country later this month.

It’s a smartphone app—the government calls it a “digital certification using blockchain technology”—adding that it won’t store any personal information and is “impossible to counterfeit.”

China introduced a version of a vaccine passport last month—both in digital and paper form.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said China is ready to discuss “mutually recognized mechanisms for health codes” with other countries—but there are challenges.

The South China Morning Post reports that when it comes to foreigners, China may only accept a vaccination from Sinovac—a Chinese shot that most of the rest of the world has not approved for use—emergency or otherwise.

A Malaysian physician has raised concerns about “vaccine spheres of influence," with differing rules unless there is some kind of international agreement though a group such as the World Health Organization.

Singapore has raised that issue with the International Civil Aviation Organization—although the Minister of Transport says talks will take time.

He notes most countries are very early in the vaccination process—and are still exploring what would be involved in certifications that could be accepted across borders.