European leaders push for vaccination passports to facilitate travel between countries

European leaders are pushing for vaccine passports, like those trialed in the United Kingdom, to standardize a system across the continent.

“It is urgent to adopt a common understanding on how a vaccination certificate should be structured so as to be accepted in all member states,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the European Commission Wednesday while pushing for a standardized passport for travel within European Union member states. “The lengthy experience we have had on developing a common PLF [Passenger Locator Form] has shown us that there is an urgent need for a high-level EU-wide mobilization to move things forward.”

The call comes as more European nations have expressed interest in the idea of vaccine passports, with Denmark announcing last week that it will have travel passes early this year.

The idea behind vaccine passports originated in the U.K., where Health Secretary Matt Hancock hinted at the idea of an “immunity certificate” in April.

“People who have had the disease have got the antibodies and then have immunity can show that and therefore get back as much as possible to normal life,” Hancock said at the time.

But Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said in December that vaccine passports were “not the plan” despite vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi predicting that British businesses could require such passports from customers.

More recently, the British government teamed with biometric firm iProov and cybersecurity company Mvine to develop an app that could be downloaded to a smartphone to track vaccinations.

“The idea is that we are there ready and waiting in the event that we find ourselves interested in a situation where we need to prove something about ourselves,” Mvine director and founder Frank Joshi said Tuesday.

The government plans to run a trial on the app that will be completed by the end of March, with the goal of being able to track how many people have received the first or second dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

But Zahawi has denied that the government would mandate an impunity passport, saying “we have no plans to introduce” one.

“At this stage of the vaccination program, it is not clear whether vaccines will prevent transmission,” a Department of Health spokesperson said. “As large numbers of people from at-risk groups are vaccinated, we will be able to gather the evidence to prove the impact on infection rates, hospitalization, and reduced deaths. If successful, this should in time lead to a reassessment of current restrictions.”