Story at a glance
- Hawaii state leaders are optioning the idea of vaccine verification to permit inter-island travel.
- Nationally, debate rages over whether or not to adopt vaccine verification.
Hawaii state officials are looking into state-level steps to implement vaccine passports for inter-island travel, local outlets report this week.
Hawaii, which is the U.S.’s only archipelago state composed of eight islands in the North Pacific Ocean, has largely discouraged inter-island travel and was forced to reckon with the influx of travelers from outside the state flying in during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, as more Hawaiian residents are getting vaccinated against the virus, the state could launch a passport in the form of an app or card after receiving the full two doses.
Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green reportedly confirmed that travelers could use the potential vaccination certificate as proof of vaccination while an app is in development by a company called First Vitals.
Like existing health passes issued by several countries, Hawaii’s vaccine passport would allow those with proven full vaccination records to receive a QR code on the forthcoming app that will display if it has been at least two weeks since the user’s last vaccination.
“They would be able to verify the health record, they would then encrypt it so people can’t steal someone’s health record. Although really, all it is is whether you got vaccinated or not and your name and the date it occurred,” said Green.
The penalties for a fake or counterfeit vaccination card have already been established, with a $5,000 fine attached to proven forgeries and up to one year in prison.
Any regulation surrounding individuals who have been vaccinated can help revive the state’s major tourism sector that has been hit hard since the onset of the pandemic. It would also allow families and loved ones who have been separated by islands the chance to reunite.
“That’s what we see, families that haven’t seen each other for a while that live in Kauai, Maui, Hawaii Island, Oahu. And this will allow that kind of travel to take place without the additional cost of being tested,” said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.
On a national level, the idea of vaccine passports is lacking traction. Republicans have regarded such proof of vaccination as an invasion of individual privacy, while on a federal level, President Biden’s administration is still investigating its applications and benefits.