Despite potential obstacles, state pushes forward on vaccine passport plan

Updated: Mar. 26, 2021 at 6:26 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The start of Hawaii’s vaccine passport program might take a bit longer than expected, but state officials say they’re committed to the idea.

In concept, the passport would allow vaccinated people to bypass state quarantine rules.

But in practice that’s a difficult lift.

In a legislative briefing Thursday, state Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char told leaders the state is in discussion with multiple entities about making the vaccine passport a reality.

She said that Gov. David Ige is also talking to federal partners about the possibility of the program.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green also said he is behind setting up a system. The main challenge, he said, appears to be verifying if someone is really vaccinated or not.

“Well, in my mind, we absolutely should do it,” Green said.

“And it may ultimately come down to whether or not we’re willing to trust people with their (vaccination) cards. We will do some auditing to make sure that people are being honest. There would be penalties if people falsified their card.”

Char said there is potential for a digital system to be implemented, and it’s possible TSA could be involved. “We’re in conversations right now looking at various commercial entities that could help to do that for Hawaii to create some sort of passport system where they can validate, in conjunction with some sort of registry, that a person has been vaccinated,” Char said.

Green hinted at a possible timeline for a program to be implemented by May 15, but much is dependent on outside factors. He’d originally hoped for a May 1 launch.

While a vaccination passport may seem novel, the idea isn’t actually new.

In some countries, you need to show vaccination against yellow fever before you arrive. One Hawaii travel expert sees a vaccine passport implemented all over the world.

“I believe, personally by before the end of the year, that for all international flights a vaccine passport will be required,” said Jerry Agrusa, UH-Manoa School of Travel Industry Management professor.

Char added: “I think at some point, it will come. There’s a lot of optimism.”

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