By Shelton Daniel
The term ‘vaccine passport’ has created some confusion in the media, according to Information Minister Melford Nicholas, who set about to clear this up on Thursday morning.
During the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing, Nicholas said he has seen comments on social media where persons seem to believe that getting a vaccine passport means they need to obtain another passport.
His answer to that was a definite no. “As I would have indicated when the health officials came back to us since last year, they had indicated that a number of persons who came back home would have fraudulently represented that they had a negative PCR test, because it’s in the form of a paper document, and it could be doctored and manipulated to give a wrong impression.”
He continued: “Because COVID is so dangerous and countries may wish to have a vaccination proof of inoculation as a pre-requisite for entry, to be totally reliant on paper representation may not be such a good thing, because each person at the end of this process is given an inoculation card with a date and time on it. But … you take it to another country, they may not easily recognize the authenticity of that particular card.
“And so, what we have built into this process – the registration portal where persons are getting registered now and where the health officials are loading up the information – that portal … is currently being digitized. But the digitized information, the digitized register, will be made available or can be made available through the airline community, through IATA [International Air Transportation Association], such that when persons leave here they will have their own cards and own barcode card to be able to take with them and say ‘Yes, I am vaccinated and this is the evidence.’
“But when they get to another port of entry, those ports of entry would be in a position – through investigation of the digital registry – to be able to make a comparison and a validation of what is being transported in paper form. And so, that is what is meant by a [vaccine] passport … IATA is an organization that all ports of entry subscribe to – it doesn’t matter which country – and so, once IATA has access to this information, it will be able to transport it to any country that our citizens may hope to visit.”
Nicholas added that Antigua and Barbuda is “clearly in a position to give validation and authenticity to documents that [travellers from this country] will be able to carry on their person. But there is no need to amend the existing e-passports that they now have. That programme continues, and what I’ve just described will be a complement to the e-passport that they already have in their possession.”