Vaccine Passport Program Under Prototype Testing, Still No Comprehensive Database for Verification
Partial Vaccine Passport Program Possible by Summer
Hawaiʻi could have a partial vaccine passport program available by summer, but state officials were weary of providing an exact date.
“We’re just not sure how fast the vaccination database will be nationwide,” said Chief Information Officer of the state’s Office of Enterprise Technology Services, Doug Murdock.
The state has been working with two companies–Clear and Common Pass–since October, on piloting a verification system. Under the current prototype, travelers paste a code from their Common Pass application onto the state’s Safe Travels application, which is able to verify that a COVID-19 test has been taken. Eventually, Murdock said, the same could be done for vaccine verification.
“That’s probably how it will work. Everybody will have a code which you’ll copy from their application and put it in our application and then it will validate back and you’ll be clear to go,” said Murdoch during a Monday press conference hosted by Governor David Ige.
According to the governor, both companies have committed to incorporating vaccination data and status into their platforms when it becomes available. “We feel pretty good about where we are. We know it will take some time to be able to validate the vaccination status of individuals in all the states, but we do know that companies like Common Pass and Clear are at the forefront of being able to verify the vaccination status of individuals,” said Gov. Ige.
Gov. Ige noted that the White House indicated during a call last week that the federal government would not be creating or ordering a national database for vaccinations. “So… we are fortunate that we’re engaged with two of the leaders–Clear and Common Pass… They’re going to have to go state by state, maybe even county by county in some of the states, especially for the larger counties, to be able to get access to the vaccination records and data in order to stitch together a database that would allow us to validate travel from around the country,” said Gov. Ige.
Gov. Ige said part of the challenge of implementing a vaccination passport program is that there’s no comprehensive vaccination record in the state. The state has been focused on getting vaccinations administered; and has not made timely data entry a priority or condition of administering the vaccine, especially for smaller clinics and pharmacies that have limited resources.
“We stress to them how important it is for the data to be entered, but we’re not making it an absolute priority that they have to finish data entry before they can administer more vaccines. Our focus is shots in arms and trying to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” said Gov. Ige.
Hawaiʻi’s Safe Travels Program Remains in Place for Testing and Quarantine
Last week Friday, the CDC issued updated guidance for fully vaccinated travelers within the US, recommending that fully vaccinated individuals would not need to get a COVID-19 test before or after travel unless their destination requires it; and do not need to self-quarantine.
Under current state rules, all arriving trans-Pacific passengers into Hawaiʻi are required to be tested prior to boarding flights (within the 72 hours before departure of the final leg of their trip to Hawaiʻi) or face a 10-day quarantine upon arrival. Interisland travelers also currently face the same state testing and quarantine guidelines. Travelers to Maui must also download the AlohaSafe Alert App in addition to other requirements.
“We are looking at the changes that’s necessary to incorporate the change in the CDC guidance for vaccinated individuals. We are working with our Safe Travels Hawaiʻi contractor, and we’ve actually been making changes, although it’s not public facing and online, that recognizes the vaccination status that is necessary to implement the change… We’re hopeful that the tests by both Clear and Common Pass will be successful. We’re seeing results at this point,” said Gov. Ige.
“Traveling in and out of the state is something that we are looking towards, but I think it’s premature to give any real specific dates on that now. We are looking at interisland travel and certainly the case counts on Oʻahu and Maui continue to present challenges. The virus activity on Oʻahu continues to rise and we’ve seen a plateau on Maui, but we do want to see lower case counts before we open interisland travel again,” said Gov. Ige.
Gov. Supports Secondary Test on Maui, But County Needs to Pay for it or Find Funding
Both Maui and Kauaʻi Counties have asked for secondary tests upon arrival. Gov. Ige said that while he supports a secondary test, he does not believe the cost of the additional test should be passed on to the traveler.
“I think we all realize that having two tests would be better than having one test. Part of the question is about who’s paying for the tests. We believe that the Safe Travels program should be statewide, and the parameters that we provided is that it should be a Nucleic Acid Amplification test. It should be administered 72 hours prior to departure on the final leg, and that the traveler should pay for that test. I did, in my emergency orders, allow the counties to do a second test if they wanted to, but I made it clear that they would have to pay for the test. I didn’t think that it would be fair to have the traveler pay for the second test as a condition of traveling. The mayors can institute a second test if they want to. They would have to pay for it or find some way to finance it in order for it to be implemented,” said Gov. Ige.
Expanded Vaccine Eligibility by May 1, 2021
As for vaccinations, Gov. Ige said he spoke with the director of the state Department of Health over the weekend, and said DOH officials believe that Hawaiʻi is on track for the May 1, 2021 deadline of being able to expand to all adults 16 and older. On Monday, Maui already expanded its vaccination eligibility to all residents 16 and older, but not all counties have reached that point.
More Interisland and Trans-Pacific Travel Possible by July Fourth Weekend
When asked about the possibly of opening up interisland travel, Gov. Ige said he expects to see more travel interisland as well as trans-Pacific by the Fourth of July weekend, but did not specify if restrictions on testing or quarantine could be lifted.
“When we look at the pace of vaccinations and the fact that the actual number of doses that we have received have been increasing every week,” said Gov. Ige. “Once J&J gets online in a steady fashion and we can begin to see thousands of doses of J&J vaccine every week, I think it makes early July–the Fourth of July weekend–a reasonable goal.”
He continued to urge personal responsibility and safety precautions and asked the public to hang in there a bit longer. “The vaccination program is rolling out smoothly. We continue to see increasing supply from federal government and we have been able to accelerate vaccine distribution to many of the priority areas. We are on track to meet the May 1 deadline (to expand vaccine eligibility), and certainly, we are seeing progress through all of the priority areas.”
To view the press briefing in its entirety, click here.