Bahrain first Gulf nation to adopt Covid-19 vaccine passport

Move follows similar technology in Denmark and Sweden although results not yet authorised for international travel

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A digital vaccine passport that acts as proof of immunisation against Covid-19 for its carrier was launched in Bahrain on Wednesday, making the island nation the first Gulf country to adopt the policy.

The country's BeAware app will update a user's immunity status two weeks after receiving both doses of the vaccine, allowing for the time it takes for antibodies to develop and offer protection against coronavirus.

Residents have a choice of four vaccines in the country, all without charge: Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V.

Once fully inoculated, the app will present a green "Covid-19 vaccinated" shield with an official certificate detailing the user's name, date of birth, nationality and which vaccine they received.

A QR code linked to Bahrain’s national vaccine register allows authorities to check the status of an app user.

Similar programmes under development in Sweden and Denmark are scheduled to launch shortly.

The passport would have to be accepted and recognised worldwide before it can be used as a travel stamp allowing crossing into other nations without the need to quarantine, but Bahrain's programme could open up safe travel around the GCC.

The nation is just 40 minutes from Saudi Arabia, and relies heavily on close links with the kingdom for trade and tourism via the King Fahd Causeway.

The idea of vaccine passports was mooted across Europe, not just to aid a reopening of travel but to allow the hospitality sector to recover by welcoming back customers.


Inside Bahrain International Airport's new art-infused passenger terminal


Although some international travel is likely to require proof of inoculation against Covid-19, European governments are split on a bloc-wide endorsement of vaccination passports.

The UK government is also divided on the use of inoculation certificates to allow international travel.  Some ministers say they are discriminatory.

Proof of vaccine in a digital wallet could provide an incentive for some to get vaccinated and offer new work opportunities.

Critics, however, say there is a lack of evidence that vaccines effectively prohibit transmission, too little is known about emerging new variants and passports could be vulnerable to fraud.