Companies working on 'COVID passports' for vaccine rollout

ByWalter Perez via KGO logo
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
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A COVID-19 vaccine has yet to officially become commercially available in the US, but there's no shortage of industries anxious to develop a business plan around those impending va

PHILADELPHIA -- While the U.S. has yet to officially approve a COVID-19 vaccine, several industries are already developing business plans around those impending shots.

Several companies -- like IBM and Change Healthcare -- are working on so-called "COVID passports" in partnership with various airlines and grocery chains.

The concept behind a COVID passport is simple on its surface.

It would be an easily accessible document proving you've been fully inoculated, allowing you to travel with fewer restrictions.

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As that concept makes its way toward reality many airports, including Philadelphia International, have already been installing other safety protocols to breathe as much new life as possible into the struggling airline industry.

Jim Tyrrell, Chief Revenue Officer at PHL, says, "We just opened our COVID-19 testing facility at the airport on Friday just to add that one other additional layer of security."

And while testing sites at airports will open to all travelers, there are concerns about the accessibility to the impending COVID passports.

For example, some people may not have easy access to a vaccine.

That, in effect, would give one segment of the population full access to the world while limiting another population.

The other issue: what we still don't know about the virus.

The World Health Organization has already questioned the reliability of a so-called COVID passport since medical officials still don't know how long vaccine immunity will last.

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Regardless, officials from PHL say they are adapting their business model to the rapidly changing circumstances as quickly and as safely as possible to get everyone at the airport back on the job, not just airline employees.

Tyrrell says, "We have over 2,500 concession employees and the majority of them are either furloughed or out of work and, yeah, it's tough."

The COVID passports will also, theoretically, be used for access to concerts, sporting events, and other large gatherings.

Meanwhile, something akin to a COVID passport is scheduled to be tested out by a handful of airlines later this month including JetBlue, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic.