How to show proof of vaccination for travel abroad

Advice

Since the ban on foreign holidays was lifted the NHS app has been used as a digital vaccine passport for passengers to go on holidays. 

The EU has also implemented a scheme to allow vaccinated travellers to visit the bloc and countries within the bloc have begun to use the EU’s digital green certificate. 

It has been recommended that member states set up digital portals that will enable Britons to use the NHS app as a vaccine passport as the EU develops a similar green certificate for citizens. Those who are not vaccinated will likely have to present a negative Covid test or evidence of immunity. The NHS app currently satisfies the entry requirements of a growing list of countries including Greece, Croatia and Spain.

Below we run through some of the most common questions about holiday vaccine passports.

Is a Covid vaccine passport a physical document?

A function has been added to the NHS app that enables users to show, for the purpose of entering foreign countries, that they have been vaccinated or have been tested for Covid on their smartphone.

Mr Shapps said on May 7: “If needed, people in England who have both vaccine doses will be able to demonstrate their Covid vaccination status via the NHS app from May 17.

“Those without access to the app can request a letter from the NHS proving their vaccination status by calling 119, from 17 May.”

There are currently two leading prototypes that have inspired the NHS app: one by Iata, the International Air Transport Association, called the Travel Pass; and two, the EU’s Digital Green Certificate, agreed by a host of European countries. 

Both are digital, on smartphones, and would work in the same way a boarding pass on a phone would work today. The EU says its version includes a QR code that is scanned to prove inoculation. 

A warning to any government considering introducing the use of physical passports might be the saga that engulfed South Africa when it asked parents travelling with children to bring their unabridged birth certificates to the airport in a bid to clamp down on child trafficking. 

The scheme was a calamity with confusion over who was meant to check what. A number of British families were refused boarding and left stranded at the airport having been unsure on exactly what documentation was needed. 

How do I get a holiday vaccine passport?

You need to download the NHS app on your smartphone – this is different to the contact tracing app, called NHS COVID 19, which is separate and does not include vaccine passports.

The app requires access to your NHS profile and number, which knows whether you have received a coronavirus vaccination or not. 

The vaccination record held by the NHS will be shown inside the app.

Open your App Store if using an iPhone, or the Google Play Store on an Android phone. Search for “NHS App” and it should be the top result. The app is compatible with most Android smartphones. Any device running Android 5.0 and higher will be able to download and use it.

Those without access to the app can request a letter from the NHS proving their vaccination status by calling 119 – these can take up to seven working days to arrive.

Other apps that are, or will be, used as vaccine proof are free like the NHS app. The Iata version is free to download and use, with the cost falling on the airlines that sign up to use it. 

The EU has said the Digital Green Certificate will be free to users and, though digital, will be able to be shown if printed out on paper. Iata, too, said it can offer paper versions.

How does the app work?

The NHS app works by allowing people to register details such as their name, postcode and NHS number to link the app with their health record held by their GP.

This information is then shown in the app once people have logged into it, allowing them to see their vaccination record as well as other medical information such as allergies and appointment records.

To find your vaccination status in the app, users can click the tab ‘your health’ and then click a box called ‘check your Covid-19 vaccine record’. 

In order to travel, you may be required to click the tab ‘share your Covid-19 status’. On the next screen, hit ‘continue’ and then ‘travel’ and this should generate a QR code. This can be downloaded as a PDF, or you can ask for it to be sent to your email address.

Tell me more about the Iata Travel Pass, how does it differ from the NHS app?

Iata’s Travel Pass seems to be a global choice as it stands, having been trialled by more than 20 airlines, including British Airways, Singapore Airlines and Etihad.

Iata said: “Iata Travel Pass is a mobile application that helps travellers to store and manage their verified certifications for Covid-19 tests or Covid-19 vaccines. 

“This will be important for governments that are likely to require either verified testing or vaccination proof as a condition of international travel during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.”

It is not yet clear as to how the airlines that use the app will integrate the necessary documents with the requirements of national border checks. 

Iata says the app will allow users to check the requirements of different countries, register test results as well as vaccinations and links with laboratories to confirm their Covid status. It would also be able to carry someone’s Yellow Fever vaccine proof, too.

Iata was clear to point out it was not mandating the need for vaccine passports. It said: “Governments decide the requirements to travel; airlines and passengers need to comply.”

What about the EU Green Digital Certificate (GDC)?

The digital green certificate came into use in seven EU countries on June 1. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland made the certificates available to their citizens and are accepting them from visitors. 

It was launched following two months of preparation. The aim is for people within the EU to have the certificates and for visitors from outside the bloc to be given one when they arrive. 

How will a vaccine passport keep my data private?

The Government guidance states: “Your Covid-19 vaccination status is held securely within the NHS App, and can only be accessed via the NHS login service.

“The COVID-19 vaccination service only shows your COVID-19 vaccination status in the form of your vaccination record.

“The COVID-19 vaccination status service can be accessed via the NHS App or NHS.UK.

“When you access your COVID-19 vaccination status via the NHS App, or directly via the NHS website, you will need to use your NHS login.”

Both Iata and the EU have said they will ensure the sensitive medical data will be kept secure too.

Dr Dawood said: “All the apps I have seen so far are based on the idea that data storage is local (on an individual’s smartphone) rather than central, with privacy at the fore.

“The Iata app will also be able to access (private) test results for travel and will link the available data to published entry requirements relating to intended travel, turning ‘green’ or ‘red’ according to whether the requirements have been correctly met, and the others seem to work in a similar way.”

What if my GP name does not match my passport name?

Then you might not be able to use it to travel. The Department of Health and Social Care, which is in charge of the app recommends that passengers check the name on their passport matches how it is displayed on their Covid-19 vaccination status at least two weeks before travel.

It said if different, passengers are advised to contact their GP practice to have their details updated. 

Iata, which runs the Travel Pass, said the same. A spokesperson told Telegraph Travel that the Travel Pass requires that the name on the vaccine certificate and the passport match.

How do I change my details with my GP?

The NHS says: “Contact your GP surgery and ask them to update your details. They will then update your NHS record. Any changes made there will appear in the NHS App.”

How do I change the name on my passport?

You must apply for a new passport, which can take up to 10 weeks. It is important to remember that your details need to match those of some holiday bookings, like flights, for example. 

You can contact your airline to change the name of a flight booking, though you may be charged.

Will a holiday vaccine passport be used within the UK?

Sajid Javid has said the Government “will not be going ahead” with plans for vaccine passports.

He told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I’ve never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity, but we were right to properly look at it.

“We’ve looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.”

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