What is an immunity passport and can it get people travelling again?

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Victoria wants to know about an immunity passport, and whether such certificates of immunity might be necessary for future travel.


Q. Victoria
I have been forced to cancel a trip to Europe and am wondering when we will ever be able to travel back there again? I have heard talk about immunity passports being a way to get people travelling again. Will I need to get an immunity passport to travel in future?

A. An immunity passport, or immunity certificate, is a document proving that you are immune to a contagious disease.

It’s a physical or digital document that may be given to people who have recovered from a contagious disease or, in this case, the COVID–19 virus.

You would only need an immunity passport if you caught the coronavirus and have fully recovered from it. However, you would most likely have to prove you recovered and were immune for around 12 months before you’d be issued with such a document.

If you had contracted coronavirus and recovered, you would most likely have developed antibodies that would make you immune to re-infection. But, as we have seen already with reports of multiple re-infections, this may not necessarily be the case with COVID–19.

You would only be given an immunity passport if the following conditions are met:

  • recovered patients have protective immunity that prevents them from being reinfected
  • the protective immunity is long-lasting
  • the pathogen mutates sufficiently slowly for immunity to work against most strains
  • immunity tests have low false-positive rates.

Such immunity certificates could, in theory, be used to exempt holders from quarantine and social distancing restrictions once they leave and enter another country.

But, will they work for COVID–19. No-one is quite sure.

“At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’,” the World Health Organisation stated.

It may be at some point in the future that immunity passports are required for travel.

The Chilean government has already started issuing such statements for those who have recovered from being COVID–19 positive. Other countries such as Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland are also reportedly considering the use of such documents. The US and UK governments are in talks to develop such passports, too.

It may be more likely that such documents are used to reassure employers that staff are capable of returning to work without infecting fellow staff, but as far as using them for international travel, well, it does seem like we are a long way off from achieving this standard for COVID–19.

Once international borders reopen, you may be more likely to have regular temperature checks, random coronavirus tests and be scanned for symptoms upon leaving and entering countries.

Even then, you may only be able to travel between countries where there are little or no cases of infection and who are prepared to create a safe travel ‘bubble’ between borders.

When do you think people will be allowed to travel freely again? Would you be comfortable travelling internationally this year?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 19
  1. 0

    I’m travelling as soon as I can. I have already travelled to almost every corner of our country and most capital cities more than 4 times. So My goal now is to travel overseas. I have booked the Indian pacific going from Perth to Sydney in September, and that is one of the last big things of my aussie travelling left to do. So after that counting down the days to dusting off my passort.

  2. 0

    The concept of an ‘immunity passport’ is not a new. I refer to the ‘International Vaccination Certificate’ (aka the Yellow Card) which was, until recent years, compulsory to carry to gain entry to some countries. I still have mine (actually I have 2, one was used to record my military vaccinations and returned to me when I resigned my commission) which I have had since I received the polio vaccine back in 1957. Although I never was actually required to produce my Yellow Cards, I still keep them with my passport. I do not know when Yellow Cards fell out of use but they may be easily re-introduced. Do not pre-schools currently require proof of vaccinations? What about animals, boarding kennels require proof of vaccination.

    • 0

      Yes Eddy I remember that and even today it is necesary to have one for example if you travel to South America then come in to Thailand you will need a Yellow fever certification and also many other countries so this is not new at all I still have my certificate Yellow book he he he he so I will stamp it wit Covit-19 Ok …

    • 0

      Proof of vaccination is not proof of immunity.

      There us not enough knowledge about COVID-19 to be holding your breath for some sort of immunity passport. We don’t know yet whether antibodies offer immunity at all, or if for a period of time and whether that time is short or long term. Cases in China that were released form hospital apparently fully recovered I. E. 2 negative tests, presented at hospital a few weeks later testing positive for COVID 19. What we don’t know is whether the virus was not eradicated but simply lay dormant then resurged, whether they were infected with the same virus a second time implying no immunity at all or whether the second infection was a mutated strain which would mean immunity would be impossible to predict over such a timeframe.

      I’d suggest immunity passports were a pipedream at this time and certainly until or if we get a vaccine everyone will need to decide the level of risk they will accept when travelling here or overseas.

    • 0

      The yellow International Certificates were mainly issued for Smallpox which was still very prevalent in the world back then. Like you, I still have mine, but long out of date so basically useless I assume. There was also provision in the book for Cholera and Yellow Fever. I only had the jabs for Smallpox and Cholera. I never went anywhere that “needed” those, but I think it was just mandatory that you had to have the certificate, at least for Smallpox back in the 1960’s.

  3. 0

    I have sold my house in Queensland and in the process of buying a unit in a retirement village in SA, close to my family. Just hoping the borders will be open when I need to physically move there. Everything was held up with the Covid19 lockdowns, so I am anxious to get under way as soon as I am able to. I am returning to access more support from my family as I age, as there is very little help available where I am now.

    • 0

      You would be able to move regardless but you will need to do the quarantine period. You can apply for permission to make the move and given you would likely be homeless if you don’t, chances are you would receive it.

  4. 0

    People of our generation traveling the world in the 70’s already had yellow cards stamped with all our injections that we needed to safely travel the world.

  5. 0

    Knowing that I’m not going to be doing any overseas travel for at least 5-6 years, all this bruhaha about Covid-19 should be well & truly done & dusted and I can travel without having contracted the disease and recovered from it to have any immunity.

  6. 0

    I agree with SuzieJ We have been traveling for 2 decades and places like Europe will not be the same, we had planed 3months in Bulgaria and Romania for 2020 but that’s not going to happen We will apply to bring our Motorhome back to Australia or sell it in UK We will do a lap around Australia again then think about oversea in a few years if we are still healthy and can get travel insurance when you are over 70.

  7. 0

    Here we go again.
    If some countries are already issuing so called immunity passports before the facts are proven then they will never be accepted.
    Seems like a total waste of time to think about it.

  8. 0

    Travelled te world many times,Its time to recover my own country from now on.No more planes and cruise ships.

  9. 0

    Covid19 means Certificate Of Vaccination ID. This seems to imply that we will need in future a certificate of vaccination to travel, and I would not be happy to get vaccinated. Especially now that nano chips can be implanyoin humans with a vaccination. Watching with interest how this will develop.

  10. 0

    If Bill Gates gets his way everyone will have to have a “vaccination” micro chip.

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