Will COVID-19 Vaccines Be Necessary to Travel Again?

Kathy Monte, Senior News Editor
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ATLANTA  — As we come up to nearly a year of living amidst a global pandemic, with countries beginning the arduous process of vaccinating their populations, trade show executives are ready to get their shows on the road again.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s preeminent immunologist and infectious disease expert, who will be the chief medical adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, predicts that a COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory to travel to other countries.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Fauci said it is possible that the United States could potentially issue passports for COVID-19 vaccines. He likened the idea to the yellow fever vaccination, required by the country of destination, not the country of departure. Dr. Fauci added that he would not be surprised if some countries require COVID-19 vaccines before reopening their borders.

The U.S. will not be the first country to require such documentation. Qantas Airlines announced in November that once a vaccine is readily available, passengers will need to prove they have taken it.

About 15.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been shipped across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), resulting in glimmers of optimism across the travel and trade show industry.

“COVID-19 vaccinations will ultimately be key to the trade show industry getting back to where it was prior to the pandemic, and the fact that the initial vaccines are proving to be 95% effective and that there are potentially multiple new vaccines coming out this year, is all incredibly positive. However, until at least 70-80% of the population is vaccinated, we are going to have to continue to focus on safety protocols and testing to provide our participants with the confidence that trade shows are safe to attend,” said David Audrain, Executive Director, Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO).

There is even more reason for optimism, he added. “The good news is that we are already seeing more and more shows moving ahead even during the current spike in the infection rate, and these events are being run safely, even without vaccinations having any impact yet. We need the governments to provide massive growth in rapid testing to help drive down the infection spread, and then as vaccinations become more widely available, we will see a much higher confidence in our customers to participate in our shows.”

Related. Good News on Vaccine Front Spurs Cautious Optimism for Events

How travelers will prove their vaccination status is still being determined. In light of this, mobile health apps like VeriFLY, CommonPass and ICC AOKpass are being tested so travelers can quickly and easily present their health data. The Commons Project, together with The World Economic Forum, is working to initiate the CommonPass framework, which will ensure a traveler’s record of a COVID PCR test, or vaccination administered in another country, is valid.

JetBlue, Lufthansa, United Airlines and others have rolled out CommonPass to passengers in select markets.

At present, COVID-19 test results are frequently presented on printed paper — or photos of the paper — from unknown labs, often written in languages foreign to those inspecting them. There is no standard format or certification system for lab results. Similarly, vaccination records are still generally shared on easily-forged paper cards.

Trade show executives realize that the vaccine is just one tool – albeit a critical one – in a health and safety public health toolbox that includes social distancing, frequent hand washing and strict health and sanitation measures.

“The advancements of COVID-19 vaccines are very helpful to a provide a safe and healthy return to eventually the outstanding levels of industry business that we all enjoyed in 2019. Vaccines distribution and mask wearing and social distancing must simultaneously take place in order to build back the confidence levels so that exhibitors and attendees decide to return to the exhibitions and events that will help to relaunch our global economies. Current and future operational protocols must and will be based upon science as the basis for going forward,” said David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA,, President and CEO, International Association of Exhibitions and Events.

Reach David Audrain, (404) 334-4585 or David@SISO.org; reach David Dubois at David Dubois at (972) 687-9204 or ddubois@iaee.com.