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Vaccine passports: What are they good for, and how would they work?

Experts discuss the possibility of showing proof of COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S. in order to travel and potentially do other social activities.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As more and more people receive the vaccine it becomes harder to tell who is fully vaccinated and who’s not. That’s one reason many believe a nationalized database listing those who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine is needed.

It would essentially be a vaccine ID verifying that you have received both doses of the shot. 

In China, they have already developed a COVID-19 vaccination certificate required for citizens in the case of cross-border travel. 

In Israel, there’s the 'Green Pass,' an app that’s connected to a database listing everyone who’s received the vaccine.

“Right now in Israel, the green passport is being used for going to the gym, going to a restaurant, going to a public meeting. Places where other people are congregating," consumer advocate Christopher Elliott said.

But in the U.S., no steps similar to a certified vaccine ID have been made just yet. Instead, many people are laminating their vaccine cards to show as proof, but experts say even that is not 100% verifiable.

“You can go online right now and buy the CDC vaccination card for $20 and fill it out yourself,” Elliott said. “The problem is that card is not a secure document.”

There have also been other concerns about privacy if a database is created including everyone’s personal information, and the potential to create greater inequalities if proof of vaccination is needed to travel or participate in other social activities.

"We need vaccination policies that don't create in themselves inequity, and we need to be very very careful that the process of certifying vaccination does not result in personal freedoms or human rights being impeded in any way that is not justified,” World Health Organization emergencies program Dr. Mike Ryan said.

Proof of vaccination when traveling isn't entirely new. Previously, in some cases when entering a new country, you may be asked to show your 'yellow card' which is a card issued by the CDC showing a history of your recent vaccinations.

Currently, in the U.S., proof of a negative COVID-19 test is required when returning from international travel.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.

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