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Vaccine Passport Pilot Programs in Development

By Max Dible
April 6, 2021, 6:30 AM HST
* Updated April 5, 9:52 PM
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File photo by Wendy Osher.

Hawai´i still has designs on a vaccine passport program, but its arrival in May is looking less and less likely.

Governor David Ige on Monday said the state is considering changes to its Safe Travels Program to reflect new CDC guidance, which states that vaccinated travelers need not take pre-travel tests, post-travel tests, or quarantine for any period of time upon arrival unless their destination specifically mandates it.

The process, however, will not be simple or quick, and the federal government announced last week that it has no plans to offer help in the form of a national vaccinated persons database. Hawai´i does not even have its own, though such a database is in the works.

“We told (vaccine) providers to report on gross vaccines provided,” Ige said. “We are building that record. We are asking all providers to upload and input the data, but we have not made it a requirement that they put that information in the systems before vaccinating more people.”

The reason for the decision, the governor continued, is that the state prioritized enlisting as many providers as possible to distribute the vaccine as quickly as it could. Larger providers, like CVS, have the resources to upload the data more or less in real time. Locally owned pharmacies, for instance, may not.

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“Our focus is shots in arms,” Ige said.

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A statewide database will eventually allow for a vaccine passport program specific to interisland travel. The governor said that could become a reality as early as July 4, though he added current infection rates on O´ahu and Maui are troubling.

“We do support limiting travel between Maui and O´ahu until more people are vaccinated and (we) can prevent the spread,” Ige said. “We do want to see lower case counts before we open (unimpeded) interisland travel again.”

As to abolishing testing for vaccinated trans-Pacific travelers, Doug Murdock, chief information officer for Enterprise Technology Services, said two programs in development by the companies Clear and Common Pass could make a vaccine passport program a reality by the summer as well.

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“We’ve been working on this since October, and we’ve made really great progress.,” Murdock said. “We are just not sure about a certain date.”

“It would not surprise me if by summer we could have this going.”

Clear and Common Pass will have to comb through several jurisdictions, both state and federal, sometimes gathering data county by county to develop a national vaccinated persons database. They will have to coordinate with medical groups, airlines, and other stakeholders, Murdock explained.

Once the database is built, however, the system will be simple. Murdock said a code will be generated from one app, and copy and pasted into another.

“It will validate back, and you’ll be clear to go,” Murdock said.

Common Pass also operates internationally and may be able to accommodate vaccine passports for travelers from major Hawai´i tourism markets overseas.

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations.
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