Foreign travel may be easier if your vaccine certificate name matches your passport

Have you received your first dose yet? 

If you’re still waiting, and plan to travel abroad soon, here’s a signup step you shouldn’t ignore: when registering for a COVID-19 vaccine, make sure your registration name matches the name on your passport

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If you don’t have a passport yet, no worries. Just ensure that the government ID you’re using to sign up—be it Aadhaar, Driving License, PAN card, or anything else—has the same name as what will eventually be on your passport

Why? Because your registration name will get printed on your final vaccination certificate, and the latter is set to become a key part of foreign travel applications. If your certificate and passport names don’t match, you could be in for a rough ride. 

Why? Aren’t name corrections possible?

Not yet. To avoid misuse, there is currently no official way to change the name—or any other details—on your vaccination certificate once it has been issued. 

The Hindu had reported in April that the Centre would deploy a software patch to “allow minor changes in the spelling of a name or mistakes in the surname” for the final certificate, meant for people who made genuine mistakes. But this feature, as described by Dr. R. S. Sharma, Chairman of the Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration (Co-WIN), is yet to roll out. 

As of today, if someone makes a mistake during CoWIN registration, the only way to ‘redo’ it is to delete the beneficiary entirely and submit their details again. Of course, this will only work if they haven’t already completed their first appointment. 

screenshot from cowin website on how to delete a vaccine beneficiary

This is where you can delete a beneficiary from CoWIN, if they have the wrong name.

Vaccination verification at the heart of unlocking travel

The global stage for vaccinated travel is still evolving, with much left unanswered. But judging by recent trends, it looks like the link between your passport and your vaccination certificate will be a strong one. Let’s see some examples. 

Countries like Greece and Iceland, which are currently asking for a vaccination certificate to allow entry, have specified that the full name on it must match the name on a traveller’s passport, while sunny Seychelles has made a tourist’s passport the main document to support a certificate. This is the easiest method of identity verification on arrival, and will likely show up in rules set by other countries. 

Couple stand on the roof of a building in Santorini, Greece during holiday after covid

Greece added vaccination certificates as an accepted tourist entry document from some countries. India is yet to make the cut

Many nations which are open to tourism are also allowing travellers to skip quarantine or testing on arrival if they are fully vaccinated. The proof of vaccination to ease any restrictions can call for supporting documents, and a passport check is the first natural step. 

There’s also the fact that certain visas mandate medical exams from applicants. Immigrating to Canada, the USA, and Australia, for example, still requires completing medical exams and a list of essential vaccinations. In the future, this process could include submitting COVID-19 vaccination records. An original passport is required during this process, making a name match necessary to conclude the exam. 

If we look at transit, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is trying to make vaccine verification a simpler affair for governments and airlines. 

IATA is currently trialling the IATA Travel Pass with over 30 international carriers, including Emirates, Etihad, and Singapore Airlines. Created as a mobile app, the Travel Pass will help visitors store, verify and share their COVID-19 credentials with foreign authorities. It already had a successful trial in March, and may eventually boost aviation. But here, again, a passport name match is required. 

To use the app, passengers must provide their passport for ID verification, and upload digital vaccination records. If there is a name mismatch between these documents, it could become an obstacle to gaining airline and immigration approvals. 

Under the spotlight: the EU’s vaccine validity rules

The European Union’s 27 member nations are abiding by a list of approved vaccines from the European Medical Agency (EMA) when it comes to letting in vaccinated travellers. Covishield, being a brand name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (sold as Vaxzevria in Europe), has this approval, while Covaxin does not. But thankfully, there’s some leeway. 

Until the EU’s ‘Digital Green Certificate’—a health passport—goes live, every member nation has the option of accepting travellers from non-EU countries who have been inoculated with unapproved vaccines, or with vaccines that have received emergency-use approval from the WHO. Covishield has received this WHO approval, but Covaxin’s is still under process. 

Entry will depend on each country’s national law, “taking into account the ability to verify the authenticity, validity and integrity of the certificate and whether it contains all relevant data”. And what’s an essential document to verify your travel data? You guessed it—the passport. 

To sum things up

Navigating vaccine validity and international travel is tricky right now—what’s not allowed in a country today may get the green signal a month later. 

But as you can probably tell, verification using your passport could become critical in supporting your proof of vaccination. Whether you use the CoWIN website or choose a walk-in appointment, it’s advisable to check your registration name carefully before booking your first dose. 

Disclaimer: This is an analytical article based on global trends, and does not aim to serve as a definitive guide. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own.