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Sunday, December 5, 2021

How to show proof of Covid vaccination status for travel abroad

The NHS app is now widely used as a digital vaccine passport for Britons travelling abroad, and is accepted as proof of your vaccinated status – but not yet any booster dose – by a growing number of nations.

The app holds the NHS Covid Pass, which is accepted by all EU countries, as well as most nations further afield.  It is also possible to request a NHS Covid Pass letter, if you need or prefer this version. 

From Friday, October 29, the NHS pass will be accepted across the European Union. The UK’s application took three months for its approval from the European Commission – the decision simplifies travel across various countries that demand proof of vaccination to enter indoor venues, as well as at the border.

Travellers who are not vaccinated usually have to present a negative Covid test or evidence of immunity, according to their destination’s requirements; the accepted ways to demonstrate these results are listed on each nation’s Foreign Office guidance page on gov.uk. 

Below, we answer some of the most common questions about holiday vaccine passports.

Is a Covid vaccine passport a physical document?

A function has been added to the NHS app that enables users to show, for the purpose of entering foreign countries, that they have been vaccinated or have been tested for Covid on their smartphone. The vaccination certificate shows the dates of your jabs, with a QR code. 

There is an option on the app to download a copy of your certificate, which you can then print out. It is wise to do so, in case you lose your phone or the battery dies while away. However, UK citizens who have a paper vaccination certificate issued before November 1 must download a new enhanced copy from nhs.uk or phone 119. Older certificates will not scan into the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) scheme.

How do I get a holiday vaccine passport?

You need to download the NHS App on your smartphone – this is different from the contact tracing app, called NHS COVID 19, which is separate and does not include vaccine passports.

The app requires access to your NHS profile and number, which records whether you have received a coronavirus vaccination or not. 

The vaccination record held by the NHS will be shown inside the app.

Open your App Store if using an iPhone, or the Google Play Store on an Android phone. Search for “NHS App” and it should be the top result. The app is compatible with most Android smartphones. Any device running Android 5.0 and higher will be able to download and use it.

Those without access to the app can request a letter from the NHS proving their vaccination status by calling 119 – these can take up to seven working days to arrive.

Other apps that are, or will be, used as vaccine proof are free like the NHS app. The Iata version is free to download and use, with the cost falling on the airlines that sign up to use it. 

How does the app work?

The NHS app works by allowing people to register details such as their name, postcode and NHS number to link the app with their health record held by their GP.

This information is then shown in the app once people have logged into it, allowing them to see their vaccination record as well as other medical information such as allergies and appointment records.

To find your vaccination status in the app, users can click the tab ‘your health’ and then click a box called ‘check your Covid-19 vaccine record’. 

In order to travel, you may be required to click the tab ‘Get your NHS COVID Pass’. On the next screen, hit ‘continue’ and then ‘travel’ and this should generate a QR code. This can be downloaded as a PDF, or you can ask for it to be sent to your email address.

Do I need a vaccine booster in order to travel?

Tourists may be forced to have booster jabs if they want to go on holiday without restrictions, the Prime Minister has said, as the rollout of third vaccines to over-40s is set to get under way. 

“I think what the general lesson is for anybody who wants to travel, you can see that getting fully vaccinated with a booster is going to be something that will, on the whole, make your life easier in all kinds of ways, including foreign travel,” said Boris Johnson.

Currently, a booster is not mandatory for travel, however, Austria and Israel are among a handful of countries to impose time limits on the validity of vaccinations – unless travellers have boosted their immunity with follow-up jabs.

Does the app show my booster?

No, not currently. The Prime Minister has said: “I think that we will be making plans to add the booster dose to the NHS Covid travel pass.” 

Pressure is mounting on the government to make this change, especially since France announced that from December 15 British visitors over 65 will not be allowed to enter bars, restaurants or museums without showing digital proof of a booster shot. 

What is the Iata Travel Pass, how does it differ from the NHS app?

Iata’s Travel Pass seems to be a global choice as it stands, having been trialled by more than 20 airlines, including British Airways, Singapore Airlines and Etihad.

Iata said: “Iata Travel Pass is a mobile application that helps travellers to store and manage their verified certifications for Covid-19 tests or Covid-19 vaccines. 

“This will be important for governments that are likely to require either verified testing or vaccination proof as a condition of international travel during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.”

It is not yet clear as to how the airlines that use the app will integrate the necessary documents with the requirements of national border checks. 

Iata says the app will allow users to check the requirements of different countries, register test results as well as vaccinations and links with laboratories to confirm their Covid status. It would also be able to carry someone’s Yellow Fever vaccine proof, too.

Iata was clear to point out it was not mandating the need for vaccine passports. It said: “Governments decide the requirements to travel; airlines and passengers need to comply.”

What about the EU Green Digital Certificate (GDC)?

The digital green certificate is used across the EU, and is recognised in the UK as proof of vaccination. From October 29 the UK’s NHS Covid certificate will be recognised by the whole of the EU as an equivalent to the green certificate.

How will a vaccine passport keep my data private?

The Government guidance states: “Your Covid-19 vaccination status is held securely within the NHS App, and can only be accessed via the NHS login service.

“The Covid-19 vaccination service only shows your COVID-19 vaccination status in the form of your vaccination record.

“The Covid-19 vaccination status service can be accessed via the NHS App or NHS.UK.

“When you access your COVID-19 vaccination status via the NHS App, or directly via the NHS website, you will need to use your NHS login.”

Both Iata and the EU have said they will ensure the sensitive medical data will be kept secure too.

Dr Dawood said: “All the apps I have seen so far are based on the idea that data storage is local (on an individual’s smartphone) rather than central, with privacy at the fore.

“The Iata app will also be able to access (private) test results for travel and will link the available data to published entry requirements relating to intended travel, turning ‘green’ or ‘red’ according to whether the requirements have been correctly met, and the others seem to work in a similar way.”

What if my GP name does not match my passport name?

Then you might not be able to use it to travel. The Department of Health and Social Care, which is in charge of the app, recommends that passengers check the name on their passport matches up with how it is displayed on their Covid-19 vaccination status at least two weeks before travel. However, it should only matter than your first and last names match, and not your middle name.

It said if different, passengers are advised to contact their GP practice to have their details updated. 

Iata, which runs the Travel Pass, said the same. A spokesperson told Telegraph Travel that the Travel Pass requires that the name on the vaccine certificate and the passport match.

How do I change my details with my GP?

The NHS says: “Contact your GP surgery and ask them to update your details. They will then update your NHS record. Any changes made there will appear in the NHS App.”

How do I change the name on my passport?

You must apply for a new passport, which can take up to 10 weeks. It is important to remember that your details need to match those of some holiday bookings, like flights, for example. 

You can contact your airline to change the name of a flight booking, though you may be charged.

Reader Service: Do you know what medical conditions you need to declare when you buy travel insurance? Discover more about the Telegraph Media Group Travel Insurance Service. 

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