Hawaii needs tourism. In 2019, an average of 30,000 people per day flew into the island state, funding an $18 billion tourism industry that made up over a fifth of the state’s economy. During 2020, trying to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from ravaging the state, Hawaii imposed strict shutdowns. Arrival numbers dropped as low as 500 per day, and those were required to quarantine. Tourist-centered industry all over the islands was closed, and unemployment ballooned to a desperate 24%. Now, the state is looking into vaccine passports as a way to rescue the state’s battered economy.

While the situation in Hawaii has improved somewhat, as of March 2021 the unemployment rate is still above 16%, and many tourist-centered businesses did not survive the shutdowns. Now, Hawaii is proceeding with its own vaccination program and looking for safe ways to reopen completely.

The idea of vaccine passports has been tossed around in every applicable context, and Hawaii as a state is making concrete plans to move ahead with the concept. There is, as yet, very limited government tracking of who is and isn’t vaccinated, but state officials are looking into any reliable method.

According to Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, the easiest way is to just have travelers use the cards people are given when being vaccinated, which have little more than a name, the kind of vaccine given, and the dates administered.

“You would have a company that would do spot checking and certainly, you can check the card itself and make sure that it looks legitimate and so on,” said Green.

But he hopes that an app will soon be available to do the same thing, with a little more security. Hawaii is looking to work with a medical app company called First Vitals to create it.

“They would be able to verify the health record, they would then encrypt it so people can’t steal someone’s health record,” said Green.

Tourism officials in Hawaii hope that vaccine passports will boost tourism, make international tourism a reality sooner, and promote inter-island travel among Hawaiian residents.

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