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Hawaii Launches ‘Vaccine Passport’

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Hawaii has become the second US state after New York to launch a “vaccination verification” scheme that will exempt fully vaccinated residents from pre-travel testing and quarantine requirements for inter-island flights from May.

The scheme, which begins May 11, does not significantly alter the status quo for trans-Pacific and inter-island travel, but adds another option for state residents who have completed a two-week period after their final Covid-19 shot. Only those who receive their shots in the state will be eligible for the exemption.

Noting that the state has some of the lowest Covid-19 infection and mortality rates in the country, Governor David Ige on Tuesday said authorities expect to expand the program to trans-Pacific travelers by summer after piloting it among island residents with international tourists to be added later.

The phased approach allows officials to “validate the screening process” and “learn about what kinds of bottle necks and delays it may inject into our screening process for inter-island travel,” Ige said, adding that only paper records of inoculation would be accepted at first.

“Our state has been doing well in keeping COVID cases steady & our hospitalizations low, & we are ready to take this next step. I know how important for residents to be able to travel to see their friends & family on other islands & this provides a way for them to do that safely,” he later tweeted.

The announcement comes a day after Arizona became the sixth state to ban ‘vaccination passports’. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order on Monday that prevents state and local governments as well as government-funded businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.

That order came on the heels of similar bans – primarily due to concerns about personal data privacy – in other Republican states, including Montana, Idaho, Texas, Florida, and Utah. A number of other Republican governors have denounced vaccination verification schemes, but are yet to issue executive orders to ban them.

Meanwhile, New York implemented its Excelsior Pass system last month to enable residents vaccinated or with proof of a recent negative test to return to Broadway theaters, concert halls, sporting arenas, and other mass gathering venues by scanning an individual QR code.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration said it will neither mandate a nationwide vaccine passport regime nor create a federal vaccination database.

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