Vaccine passports for COVID-19: How they'll be a part of global travel
Vaccine passports for COVID-19: How they'll be a part of global travel
26:13

Vaccine passports for COVID-19: How they'll be a part of global travel

Tech Industry
As COVID vaccination rates continue to creep up and the promise of a post pandemic future is from improbable. A new question is emerging. Should governments and private sector embrace the idea of vaccine passports? So now what? With me now is Terry Jones He's the founder of both Travelocity and kayak. He's worked in the travel industry for 50 years, including as the CIO of American Airlines. Thanks so much for joining us, Terry. Hope you're doing good. So you know, it were a year ago, more than a year into this pandemic. And fortunately, a lot of the talk is now shifting away from lockdowns and you know, masks what we social distancing to What life is going to be like after this ends or as this begins to end?. One of those ideas, of course, is vaccine passports. Now we hear a lot about this. It's been in the news lately politicians are talking about it, but I think it's important to start out. What do you really think the idea of a vaccine passport is?. How would you think of it?. Well, it's really not a new idea. You know fifty years ago, I spent a year going around the world. And in those days, many of us had to carry the yellow Carte Jaune, which is actually a 100 year old document. Which proved that I had been vaccinated against yellow fever, and cholera, and many other things. And people still carry that around the world. This is simply a digital representation of that time warner idea. Because today of course, with the internet and desktop publishing, anybody can back up a physical copy of one of those. And so the next step would be to say, let's have a digital one that is secure. Where you actually can prove your vaccine status, principally, I think for international travel. So, international travel of course that's getting a lot of the attention the debate, and it seems like the most natural use for it, but we're also seeing a lot of talk about Could this be used domestically or I mean or for everyday use? Maybe a better term of going to a concert, go into a nightclub going to a play or movie movie or something like that. Do you think we need to talk about these issues separately? Or do you think the it's natural that they would become conflated? Well, it might be better to separate them because I think We're already seeing politicians jump into this spray. And already the governor of Florida and the governor of Texas had prohibited the use of vaccine passports or that as others column passes. And I'd like to see us focus on getting international travel back. I thought maybe four or five months ago as I was working on this issue, they might be used in the US domestically to bring things like large meetings back earlier. My guess is that isn't gonna happen too much. Although New York is using it to bring back sporting events it makes sense, although in Texas where they're opposed to the idea There were 35,000 people in the baseball stadium this week. So, it may be used some places here in Nevada where I live. The governor, I guess, is debating whether they want to do that or not. It'd be nice to bring back a 50,000 person convention earlier. But on the other hand, conventions take months to plan and I suspect by the time His ruling got turned into reality. We could be in her view. So you could see you spoke with conventions, you could see something like you can of course, CNET goes to CES every year that it's on didn't last year, of course, because there's a virtual event. Do you see conventions maybe just kind of, especially really large ones like CES moving ahead with this. Even if the State or national government just doesn't get involved in that.>> So may I'm gonna be speaking later this month at a conference of meeting planners, and we are gonna to discuss that, and we'll see certainly they have the right to they have a legal right to, because they can offer an alternative, which is a virtual convention And we're seeing other places who are doing it. I read this morning, let me refer to my notes here, Rutgers, Cornell Brown, several other universities are going to require students to be vaccinated. Well, they're going to need some proof of that and my guess would kids, it's going to be about, right. So there are places that are going to do it. Several cruise lines have announced that they're gonna be fully vaccinated and require all passengers to be so it's gonna happen there. But I think things are getting conflated in the Wall Street Journal this morning. There was an during editorial where someone said if you're vaccinated but your spouse isn't, forget about dining out as a couple Well, I haven't heard anybody propose that. it's the slippery slope argument, but you could probably say that about any law. So no one's talking about it for dining that I've heard of that is happening in China. That is happening in Israel. So different countries are approaching it differently, but given how we've approached public health issues overall during COVID, l doubt if we are gonna see us going to COVID passports for things like dining. The best explanation I heard was a British ethicist who said Sounds like a great idea for international travel and a pretty lousy idea for getting a bottle of milk, so the question is, where is the in between? Hey, that's Israel green, you mentioned Israel, that's Israel green pass I believe it's called. Right, exactly. Yes. So you mentioned the cruise industry and you know, like I said, we have seen a couple cruise, cruise lines say they're doing this. I believe there's Norwegians done this Royal Caribbean. They've announced a couple cruises so far that will require a vaccination, I think a few smaller lines as well. But in Florida specifically, I mean, the cruise industry, of course, is a big tourism player. They're a big employer. Do you see this coming to a battle between them and Governor de Santos and the state, the state government It might now, the cruises are regulated under the federal government, I believe. So I don't know that desantis has much that he can say about the use of it on a On a boat that travels through international water, just like can't say anything about an airplane, right if nobody's saying domestic flights are going to require, but the president rule that flights must have masks so there could be some of that going on. Simply makes sense. The cruise people I've talked to Everybody's wanting to cruise ships had a very, very difficult problem to solve. And they're a small microcosm of a lot of people. And so to get people to feel safe again, it simply makes sense and of course most of their customers are older, most of them are probably already vaccinated. Not a bad way to begin. To get it started so there could be some, problem with state governments. And in fact, there's a problem with the federal government as well, where cruise ships and said we're gonna stop porting in the United States and begin our cruises in the Caribbean. If the CDC doesn't get their act together and give us an appropriate set of rules. Yeah, I think the cruise one of cruise lines I saw was the Royal Caribbean. Yes. Instead of beginning in Miami or Fort Lauderdale, it's going to be in the Bahamas and go right.>> Right so they just say hey, it doesn't reportable hotel and the convention can't say that.>>It feels like Cruise Line specifically is a problem that sort of might take care of itself considering cruise lines were big spreaders of a couple of cruise ships were being spreaders of COVID When it first got started, and then we and then we have other things like norovirus going back further, but this isn't a new thing for cruise line for diseases to spread in these confined spaces. So, I mean, I would think a lot of people aren't gonna say I refuse to go on a cruise of its vaccination because it seems like that some people want. Yeah, I think people will. So I think it makes sense In that regard, the other thing I don't understand and I know we're gonna talk about too is kind of the privacy issue about this. To me, I'm a chairman of a cybersecurity committee of a public company, and we always focus on what's our most important data and how much do we protect that? But you don't put everything in the vault. There are stages of data where you have less protection because you don't care if somebody breaks in what normally it's around what is the harm? What is the deleterious effect? So certainly, certain health data should be greatly protected. For example, a woman who's had very serious breast cancer, would want her employer necessarily to know that because you might say, well, she's going to be in expensive health risks going forward, or she might even have to leave. That makes sense. On the other hand, if someone finds out I've been vaccinated, I'm not sure that's a terrible thing. I haven't been able to find a privacy advocate yet who can tell me the other side. What is the downside? If someone finds out I've been vaccinated or I have a negative test, I don't get it just doesn't make sense. But people are saying, well, these aren't private and health data, blah, blah. I think they're just people who like to Be on the news. [LAUGH] Get me see privacy, of course is one of the reasons that critics of the concept that's one of the reasons are giving. They're also talking about not to discriminate discrimination for people that aren't vaccinated. Either. They just can't get it yet. If they're that's a different issue though. And I think that's about equality is different than privacy. So if you say I'm gonna discriminate against you because you didn't get a vaccine, Well, okay, that's a discussion we should have. So you should be able to get a bottle of milk, but you're not gonna be able to go to France. France doesn't care. They're not gonna let you in. Forget about. So then the question is we get to something like a convention Well, do they offer an alternative which has been true for people with disabilities for a long time? You can't do this physically, so I'm gonna help you do this a different way. And so meeting planners certainly could offer virtual their businesses who are gonna require this. I hope Every hospital I go to requires everyone who works in that hospital to be vaccinated. And employers are allowed to do that under a Supreme Court decision. So I think we have to understand who's being disadvantaged around what and make appropriate decisions, just as we do the say You've been incarcerated. You can't have a gun as soon as you get out in some states, or we make decisions about trade offs in society all the time, and we should make appropriate ones here. On that note of quality that the administration has said multiple times now risk ratio relates yesterday that the there there in the private sector take the lead here, but they do want to have some sort of guidelines for any use of them and one of them being equality of access. Do you think they're well, what do you think the role for the federal government is in this debate? Well, I think equality of access is, is kind of a false choice. I mean, if if there's equality of access for vaccinated and unvaccinated people, there's no reason to have a vaccine passport. There's no reason to prove. So there have to be some things you cannot do. And I think the principle one it relates to travel Now they've also said it should there should be transparency around the privacy. It should be free. I agree with that. I think it should be equitable, but we're gonna have to decide what that means. And the last thing they said it should be open source and I'm not sure if that's gonna work or not because they're commercial entities involved. What I think they've sort of hinted at, but haven't done is really talking about standards. And to me, that's where the government could say we believe any document like this audit contained these data elements and no more, perhaps just a yes, no. And there ought to be scanning standards. So what I've been talking to my senators and congressmen about is I would hope that the customs and border control would come out and say, here are the standards for all the vaccine passports we have like said that this kind of scanning capability must contain at least these data elements. And they're probably gonna say and what vaccines we're gonna let in, because they may not approve everyone. But if you realize that every returning American citizen and every non citizen must already proved negative COVID tests, and soon probably vaccination instead of the COVID test Can you imagine what it's going to be like to go through customs at JFK in the summer? It takes a long time. So why not have a voluntary program like TSA, precheck or Global Entry where if you want to You can have this thing that gets you through faster if you want to be in that three hour line with or somebody looks at your four year old grimy piece of paper and tries to figure out if you can get in. Okay? But if we have a gate and a key, you want to be able to have a modern key Yeah there's a lot of a lot of developers are working on these. [CROSSTALK] It seems like we are going to have many versions but that which could be messy but I guess like you're saying that the issue is just to make sure border authorities particular know which are accepted which vaccines are accepted, where they accept Sputnik's the question Sputnik, will they accept the virus? Well, I think Look at airlines, they're gonna put the burden on airlines. So when Europe allows Americans to come there, they're gonna tell the airline you better have a vaccine password. Use the IATA one the IBM one whatever. Avira fly, and make sure the person is vaccinated before they get on board. But they're gonna recheck it. When you get to France or England, you can be sure. And what are they gonna use? Hopefully what you already did, but maybe not. And that's where this international cooperation comes in. And the Biden administration has an executive order that asks a bunch of the different government entities to get together. And talk with other governments about this, but I haven't heard much progress yet. With it barriers to entry to other countries, so even, if I'm vaccinated, and not quite yet, it'll be California will be eligible a few days. Countries still have to lift the barriers to entry. Seems like that you vaccination must happen. You're approving vaccinated. It sounds like it's going to be a step before the EU or Australia or some of the country, especially ones that have these very strict quarantine programs are going to start loosening those restrictions. Well, it depends on you know their own Coronavirus status. So right now Europe is still in a tough place. Some countries have other countries around the world that the Seychelles Poland, I think, Latvia, I think there are 12 countries now, where they say, Hey, if you're vaccinated come on down. You just show your vaccine credential at this point and you can come in and we're open But But if you're not vaccinated we'd rather you didn't come. So I think you're gonna see that expand country by country. We saw Australia and New Zealand open a travel bubble today between the two countries. Okay. Because because COVID is low in both those countries. On the other hand, look at Canada, the CDC today issued a directive that says For us citizens do not go to Canada. It's having a really hard time with COVID. So I think it's going to be country by country and of course, you know Europe is moving ahead with an inter eu COVID passport. China has won Singapore has one other places are doing it. I think for the US to not only not do it and not have standards, is really placing a difficult burden on one of the largest industries in the US which is tourism. As an economy from my perspective, and correct me if I'm wrong, but it makes sense that airlines, We are going to are gonna talk this because they especially international flights, they are a gatekeeper for the country you're flying to if they fly somebody to a country doesn't have a passport, for instance. They need to return that person at their expense. Yeah, and they get fined. So it seems like this would be a natural growth for them to say, well, the European Union won't need to vaccinated so if I'm American Airlines, you're getting on a flight in Chicago to. Heathrow you have to be vaccinated to get on this flight. We're gonna make you prove it. Right or a negative test. And or it's but some countries may say simply vaccinate and they're going to do that I mean, Americans already adopted Vera fly. Many other countries are adopting the International Air Transport Association, passport Which I think is pretty well thought out. And, you know, we also might explain to the viewers how they really work, which is, you know, I'm now vaccinated. Let's say I'm gonna travel somewhere. So I get the American Airlines verify. I upload my credential. Which they look at, but they also reach out most of these passports, then reach out to some entity whoever gave you the shot to really verify it's real. So in my case, it would be the Nevada State vaccine database. Then when I show up for the flight, and I get scan that. Passport dating is based pardon me database gets pinged again, to say is this really very Jones? Is this a valid COVID passport? So it's a multi step process. And the only thing that's stored on most of these passports is simply yes or no. There's no real data about your healthier. It's. A vaccine passport or not? It's pretty simple. But there is that second check, which I think is critical to avoid counterfeits. And he mentioned a few of the you mentioned, like the Seychelles and Iceland, why these countries are just lowering or this basically removing quarantine requirements if you are vaccinated. That seems like that is that do you think that could be sort of an intermediate step? Like we'll see that list maybe expand before. I think it's going to expand quickly. You know, the governor of Hawaii is going through that I was supposed to be in Hawaii right now, unfortunately fell off a ladder. So I've got a little problem with my leg right now, but, you know there I had to prove testing within 72 hours. They're saying they're going to move quickly to say if you're vaccinated come on over, but you're going to have to prove it. And why is easy because they're right. We're not going tp see that on domestic travel in the US. But I think it's a smart thing for a while to do I think more and more countries, particularly I think we'll see the Caribbean open up Pretty quickly to vaccinated US travelers, and they'll be free to do as they please. Especially countries that are economies dependent on tourism, I guess Greece, Spain Yeah, great things can happen. And and I get it. I mean, look, I don't think that that's where I think a lot of this Propaganda about the problems with these, and you're not gonna be able to go to the grocery store and buy a bottle of milk. Nobody's talking that and nobody's talking about tracking people or anything else. We're talking about doing something that has been done for 100 years, is asking people to prove they have been vaccinated. We require it of kids when they go to school. Right now in almost every state, and that has turned to Orwellian, and it's not about forced vaccination This is about proving your status to allow you to mingle with other people in certain venues, particularly when you travel abroad. And I think, I hope that the US government gets the message that they don't have to issue a passport, but they certainly want to be involved in scanning them at border points to allow people to travel freely and easily. Yeah, the infrastructure sounds like it's gonna be a big deal. I mean, you mentioned getting their approval vaccinated and linking back to a state database or whatever database it might be. So there's gonna have to be infrastructure there. Well, they've already done that. And most of the most of the passport builders have all ready completed that. Okay So I'm it's done manually, but those databases are already built to be accessed by schools. So in most states have not everyone. So it's still a problem. In some places like LA County are issuing digital certificates to people to prove they've been vaccinated. Walgreens is doing that, I think Walmart is doing that. I wish I could get that I can't I just have this card. So I think that that will come along for the people who need it. But you know, very large number of people in the United States travel abroad every year, and they're gonna want this just like they, you know, now are used to going to the kiosk, when they come back into customs. So, I think we can pay back along a lot of systems we have, but somebody's got to issue the standards, or it'll be a tower of Babel. Last couple things. What do you see the besides the travel industry, especially the big players in the travel industry like airlines, cruise lines, maybe hotels, resorts. Do you see any other industries really pushing or even small businesses really pushing for the use of factoring passports? No, I haven't seen that and I think, This may come up as large companies open their facilities and welcome people back to working in the office. Will some of them require people to vaccinate? I suspect some will. You know, you could see this in it. We talk about it for farmworkers. There's been talk about it. In the Meatpacking plants, certainly in in vaccine production and hospitals, of course. So, you know, we may see more of that in certain industries where being sick is a real problem. I think in the general part of society, it will subside pretty quickly. But the interesting thing if you look at Asia and how quickly they messed up and went into social distancing, and the reason they did that was because they live through SARS and we didn't. So it's going to be interesting to see from COVID passports to contactless purchasing To all the changes we made, a lot of those will get mothballed. But hopefully they're ready to come back when we have the next one of these which most epidemiologists say we will. What do you think is the most likely scenario here? I mean so many ideas right now so much back and forth, both are on an international scale and then. On an everyday scale, what do you feel is really going to happen? Well, I think on an everyday scale, they won't be implemented in the US. I think we have enough division here around this issue that most places won't implement them. New York has California has maybe a few other States like that will do that. But the rest of them, there'll be several who come out strongly against them to make a point that even though they probably won't ever be used domestically much,and that'll be the end of it domestically, maybe we'll see some in some corporations or in some settings like hospital personnel, or there are places where they said. I want to prove all my staff is vaccinated, so people want to come here and so businesses may require people to be vaccinated, but that would be a daily check. You know, that might be your employment. Check-in right. I think internationally they're going to be around for a long time I think just like the, the yellow card has been. There will be separate, difficult to use digital passports for the first few years, and hopefully eventually governments will agree on a at least a standard and a lingua franca so that these things can interoperate. The airlines are all going to adopt them either they added one or another one They're gonna have to cruise lines will adopt them because they'll have to. And we may see even, hotels or expeditions that that check for them around the world because much of the rest of the developed world has A different healthcare system that we have. And they have digital medical records that are in advance of what we have in the United States. And I think they just expect that to happen. Whereas here, we've unfortunately made it more of a political issue than a health issue. So I don't see it being adopted here. This past quarter where it should be is aimed to weave using disadvantage. Actually the world travel and tourism console uses the word pass instead of passport. So they sort of soften that a little bit and probably that's, that's fine. You know digital vaccine card is fine. That's all we're talking about here. But you know that it's interesting because for many of us who have traveled during COVID, we've had to prove a negative test. And that really hasn't been discussed much or been high bar or become a political issue. But when the word password came about, you know, maybe that's what triggered some of these concerns that people have. But I just don't think there's a privacy concern. There's certainly as an equity concern that should be debated. And I think there is a standards requirement which we ought to get done.

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