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Vaccinated For COVID-19? Now Show Me The App

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The highly-anticipated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows vaccinated people to gather with other vaccinated people without masks or social distancing.

It is perhaps the first sign of reopening, getting back to our normal lives upended by the coronavirus almost a year ago.

But don't throw away those masks yet.

"When you walk into Costco, and when you're going to need to have a mask on, because you don't know who around you are vaccinated," said Parkland Hospital's Chief medical officer Dr. Joseph Chang. "And even though I've been vaccinated, I don't have a big sign on my head that says vaccinated."

But what if there was a way to determine who is vaccinated and who isn't?

Some companies around the world and in the United States are developing a so-called "vaccine passport" app or digital health pass or health certificate.

Right now, these are developed as travel apps but potentially these could show if you have been vaccinated or not.

It may be a new way a looking at an old concept. The commonly-used Yellow Card has been used for decades to enter countries that require inoculation records.

Called the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, the ICVP contains all the shots taken by the traveler.

Some countries require the card at customs to verify that you are entering their country disease-free.

Airlines and travel trade groups are working on a digital solution for the coronavirus.

"It's called an IATA travel pass," says Nick Careen, Senior Vice President at the International Air Transport Association, or IATA. It is developing an app that can be used by its 290 domestic and international airlines members.
"It's really is downloading an app, identifying your yourself, and then using your travel, your health, testing or vaccine, embedding it into your app and sharing it with the airlines," he said.

Currently it allows for travelers to upload negative Covid-19 tests and other important travel documents, but it is working on getting information about vaccines as well. It informs passengers on what tests, vaccines, and other measures they require prior to travel, details on where they can get tested.

Right now, the U.S. State Department requires a negative Covid-19 test for anyone entering the country and recommends a seven-day self-quarantine after the trip. And the U.S. is not alone.

"Most countries in the world now are asking for some form of tests. Most are 72 hours prior to departure. And in so doing, you need to prove that you've had that test," Careen said.

Proving that the information is accurate takes a lot of time, which he says the IATA travel pass will speed up because documents on the app will be verifiable, safe and will protect privacy, giving confidence to governments to open borders.

Preston Peterson is the director of consumer innovation at American Airlines.

American has also created its own version of a "vaccine passport" called "VeriFly app."

The app can be used by U.S passengers flying to eight countries.

It tells you exactly which documents you need and stores them for you. So you're completely prepared once you get to the airport.

United also has its own version of one these passports called "travel-ready."

And the CBS 11 I-Team has found at least one other similar app, The Common Pass

But while these apps can open travel, can they unlock the economy?

Can we use them to enter restaurants, stores, bars, concerts?

"Our focus is certainly on the travel industry i don't know where this goes beyond say airlines and hotels, we know that those two are certainly looking at it," said Peterson. "But we know that the verify team has fielded a lot of questions and inquiries from other companies about using their application."

The U.S. may be taking cues from other countries.

Israel's economy is reopening as more than half the population has been vaccinated.

It just released the "Green Pass."

It verifies a person has been vaccinated and gives those carrying it exclusive entry to newly opened hotels, gyms, pools and theaters.

Meanwhile, as parts of Europe also consider similar proposals; some top leaders have concerns.

"There are deep and complex issues we need to consider," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

He is worried about issues such as potential discrimination against people who don't *want* or can't get a shot.

Dr. Clare Wenham, with the London School of Economics says privacy is a big concern for many.

"Is it going to be something that's digital that tracks you? And that obviously opens a whole different range of conversations."

American Airlines says people concerned about privacy can opt out of their app and produce hard copies of the documents required for travel.

Currently these are all separate apps run by airlines.

No centralized app exists in the U.S. right now.

Aparna Zalani contributed to this report.

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