As more of us are able to get vaccinated, you may wonder: can I use my proof of vaccination to travel? If you’re working full time and simply haven’t found a chance to be vaccinated, you may wonder: do I need proof of vaccination to travel. A few factors go into the answer. Let’s explore.
Ever since December of 2020, the American public has been contesting the legality of whether businesses should be able to require proof of vaccination.
Now we’re halfway through 2021 and more than half our populace is vaccinated. When we look back at these discussions, how have they translated into policy so far—whether corporate or political?
The Murky Legalities of Requiring Vaccines
On November 23, the Australian airline Qantas announced that they would allow passengers to fly as long as they provide proof of a vaccination, and this sparked further conversation:
Would other airlines do the same? How would this be affecting travel going forward? At this point, federal travel mandates hadn’t come into play—and the future was looking foggy.
People from all political origins were feeling unsure, questioning the legality of private companies requiring vaccination… could they do that? Though we were still unsure of the vaccine immunity’s longevity at this point, the idea of vaccine passports was already introduced. And the concept of digitally simplifying this with apps was already in play.
We were reminded that businesses are legally persons with rights, and that they hold the discretion to whether or not to give another person their business.
What are the legal limitations that might not allow businesses to do this? Some of the possibilities posed were:
Laws of their local jurisdiction:
States of localities can pass a law limiting a businesses ability to make such a request
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits “Public Accommodation” businesses (such as hotels) to discriminate on the basis of religion.
Some may argue that vaccine policies are in conflict with their religious beliefs, though this was attempted with mask wearing unsuccessfully.
The ADA of 1990 requires businesses to accommodate those with disabilities.
This would apply to anyone to whom the vaccine is not medically recommended.
How were these concerns ultimately addressed in 2021?
April came around, businesses reopened and the economy followed suit.
The CDC began issuing cards to patients after they received their first vaccine.
Airlines began to trial vaccine passport platforms. More specifically, JetBlue and Singapore Airlines began trialing CommonPass. Their successful proof of concept seemed to reveal this as a sensible solution.
But in the U.S., issues of privacy violation and personal rights tied to this requirement were still being called into question. Some even wondered if vaccine passports being required from businesses was a HIPAA violation.
A Miami Herald news article clarified with answers from experts, who told us that not all businesses are ‘covered entities’ under HIPPA laws, meaning that HIPAA limitations don’t apply to non-medical fields such as accommodation & travel. So, HIPAA can’t prohibit Airlines in the US to ask if you’re vaccinated.
We’ll go into this further later, but employers can make their employees get vaccinated in the US (for the most part), with recent regulations. But this doesn’t extend to customers.
You may be asking: How could these Airline regulations be standardized?
Domestic vs International Travel
A Federal mandate could standardize whether or not this is allowed. Keep in mind, though, that it would only apply to domestic businesses.
And international companies wouldn’t be affected by limits mandated by the US, but rather the limits set by their own nation.
To complicate things further, state governors can also place their own mandates, so a federal one MAY not apply to every state.
It may seem that all we’ve learned is that, well—it’s complicated. But despite all this talk about what CAN or CANT be done—what IS being done?
So where are we currently with Domestic & International Travel Restrictions brought on by the CDC?
So, can your employer make you get vaccinated?
As of May 28, 2021: YES, they can legally require vaccination proof & may also offer incentives according to updated Federal EEO laws. There are some exceptions, however, such as businesses in Florida and Texas whose state governments have prohibited businesses to require proof of vaccination.
What’s A Vaccine Passport?
It’s a digital certification that you’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19. The idea came to fruition last year, when vaccines first became accessible—bringing the promise of a transition out of the pandemic. On November 23, Australian airline Qantas announced that it would require proof of vaccination to fly, with other airlines still deciding—which brought discussion to how travel would safely return in 2021.
Various airlines and travel companies have developed their own digital products to serve as these passes.
They’re likely aiming for a mobile app that would scan barcodes from international travel kits and diagnose the user’s vaccinations and health.
As we mentioned earlier, this concept of vaccine passports has begun to come to fruition.
Airlines finally began to trial vaccine passport platforms in Mid-March—when JetBlue and Singapore Airlines started trialing CommonPass.
And since then, Israel has launched the green passport, New York has rolled out their Excelsior Pass, and the EU rolls out their ‘green certificate’ on the first of July.
Now you have a gist of the information available—and you can decide for yourself whether to get a vaccine before traveling, opt for testing, or do both to be safe.
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