Concerns over coronavirus travel passport verification process

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — State officials are working on a travel passport that would allow fully vaccinated travelers to bypass testing and quarantine. Some officials say the authentication process is causing problems, however.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green hopes to roll-out Hawaii’s travel passport program by mid-May.

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Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) director Kenneth Hara said, they are worried about the vaccination verification process.

“(The passport program) will be nationwide,” Green said. “I know there’s pressure on the Biden administration to have a national program.”

It is already in the works, according to Green.

One of the essential parts of the puzzle is the verification process.

Hawaii tracks vaccinations using the federal Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS).

“The VAMS system is the federal system to simply upload whatever person has been vaccinated,” Green explained. “We upload their name, date of birth, and what shot they got. That system will be helpful nationally. And we upload locally.”

Hara said, not every state is using it and it has drawbacks.

“The VAM system is like a giant swimming pool and information just goes in there,” Hara explained. “So there’s no way to sort by state. Names could be different from what’s on your identification. For example, I’m Kenneth Hara, or is it Ken Hara. Or is it Ken S. Hara.”

Another issue, according to Hara, is that artificial intelligence can not read vaccination cards if they are uploaded to the system because the cards are all handwritten.

Green admitted that does cause some challenges but said the passport program can still be done.

“Just like we did with Safe Travels, where we were able to verify from different testing partners, we’ll also be able to verify different vaccination partners,” Green explained.

“If that technology is too difficult to crack the code, we will then have to rely on people bringing their vaccination card, which we all get, and checking people’s IDs. That’s the old way, but frankly, the old way sometimes is just as good as the new fancy way with computers.”

Green said, Hawaii hit a milestone of 2 million visitor arrivals on Wednesday, March 24, since the Safe Travels Program started in October.

“It’s exciting because everyone said that Safe Travels couldn’t be done. Of course, it can be done,” he said. “If you take the time to methodically put in a system, it can be done very safely. And I feel the same will be true of a vaccination passport.”

Hara said, they are concerned people will start making counterfeit immunization cards unless there is a computerized system in place to check the cards.

“We would be very clear to people that if they falsified any records, they would be subject to a misdemeanor charge, which has a significant fine,” Green said. “So I don’t expect that to happen.”

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