Once there’s a vaccination we’ll likely have to demonstrate that we’ve taken it in order to be accepted for entry in many countries. However merely showing that you’ve had the virus and therefore qualify for an ‘immunity passport’ Delta CEO Ed Bastian gave a nod to in his airline’s earnings call aren’t going to work.
You shouldn’t go out of your way to get infected so you can travel when you recover because having had the virus isn’t likely to make it easier to travel.
- While it’s presumed that those who have had the disease will retain some immunity, this isn’t yet proven definitively, something WHO just reminded us of.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) April 25, 2020
- If there’s immunity what level of viral infection is necessary to achieve and sustain it? Will all asymptomatic cases have it?
- What level of antibodies do we need to show in testing to demonstrate immunity? We have no idea.
- If there’s immunity how long does it last, so how long should this passport be valid for?
- There are cases where people test negative for the virus but it’s not actually gone, or symptoms have been gone for over a month yet keep testing positive for the virus, what are the qualifications to get a passport exactly?
- There’s some indications of multiple strains of the virus, even if we demonstrate there’s some immunity and have a sense of how long it lasts (and what level of antibodies are necessary to achieve it) does that immunity apply across various strains and mutations?
You won’t be able to get an immunity passport any time soon. Temperature checks won’t get us traveling soon, because of asymptomatic spread. And even testing prior to boarding a flight may not do it because of the high rate of false negatives from tests – everyone may test negative for the virus, but some number of people would still enter a country carrying it.
To get back to traveling we need health care capacity and personal protective equipment to grow to handle infections, we need systems in place to identify and isolate people with the virus and quarantine their contacts, and we need better treatments to improve patient outcomes and reduce the length of hospital stays.
We do not need a vaccine to travel again. Widespread availability of a vaccine is probably two years away even if it’s developed in a year, since it has to be manufactured and distributed at massive scale. However a gimmick like an immunity passport, given our limited knowledge of the virus right now, isn’t likely to get us back in the sky.