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Could a coronavirus 'vaccine passport' be coming?

Several organizations and tech companies are looking into ways to offer these certificates, but effectiveness could be hard to achieve.

SAN ANTONIO — With more people getting the coronavirus vaccine worldwide, a "vaccine passport" may soon be needed to travel or return to school or the office. 

Several organizations and tech companies including Microsoft, Apple and Google are looking into ways to offer these certificates. 

For more than three million Israelis and counting, this is the ticket back to normalcy. Their government-issued "green pass" proves they've had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Jason Bowling is the hospital epidemiologist at University Health. He said the idea of a vaccine passport makes sense, what's complicated is making it effective. 

"I think there are some things that need to be sorted out," Bowling said. 

He said one problem is not knowing how long protection from the vaccine lasts. 

"Hopefully for a long time, but it may need boosters. This virus that causes COVID, there are variants so they can impact how well those vaccines work," Bowling said. "And the tricky part is you don't want to give people a false sense of security because these vaccines aren't 100 percent effective. You don't want someone to say, 'oh well I have my vaccine passport', but they're not taking the other precautions that are still needed like wearing a mask and social distancing."  "

Bowling said another unanswered question is if all three vaccines will qualify for the passport. 

"Then you're going to need an agreement with other countries on which vaccines they're going to accept," Bowling said. "Will they only take Pfizer or will they take all COVID-19 vaccines?"

Dr. Bowling said fake vaccine passports could also become a problem.

"You have to make it something that people can't forge," Bowling said. "If it's a paper document, there's going to be an issue with forging it, so you'll probably need an electronic pass."

Counties across Europe and beyond are considered similar so-called "vaccine passports" or immunity certificates to inject like back into struggling economies. 

"I think there's still some things to work out before we can see it practically enabled," Bowling said. "Certainly, the tourism industry wants it to happen, there's a lot of pressure to make it happen, so we'll see how it develops."