Lack of US-wide vaccination certificates a barrier for travel

The only vaccination certificates that authorities in Cayman consider securely verifiable are those issued by the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority and the UK's National Health Service.

Premier Wayne Panton says the US federal government’s unwillingness to create a country-wide verifiable COVID vaccination system is continuing to be a barrier to allowing people vaccinated there to avail of Cayman’s five-day quarantine period.

Speaking at the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon on Thursday, 8 July, at which he announced a plan for reopening Cayman’s borders, Panton said he had received many phone calls from mothers of Caymanian children who have been vaccinated in the US, asking why their kids had to be in quarantine for 10 days instead of five.

He said he was “thoroughly sympathetic” to their arguments, “but it is a question of trying to maintain standards that make sense, and apply them equally for everyone”. He added, “We did not come up with the verifiable vaccination concept to disadvantage anybody who was vaccinated in the US.”

Currently, Customs and Border Control officers at the airport can only securely verify vaccination certificates issued here in Cayman by the Health Services Authority or by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.

Panton said that when checks on vaccination certificates began several weeks ago, the Cayman Islands government had hoped that the US vaccination certificate issue would be “quickly resolved”.

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“I am still being advised that that is going to happen,” he said, adding that currently QR codes for vaccination certificates from two US states – California and Louisiana – can be read by authorities here.

He said there was also a move within the private sector in the US, between technology companies and businesses engaged in administering the vaccines, to create electronically verifiable vaccination documentation, which may be soon available and which Cayman would be able to access.

The premier described the US approach to verifiable vaccination data as “very fragmented”, stating that the federal government had said it was not its responsibility.

Back in April, US White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed to reporters that there would be no “federal vaccinations database” or a “federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential”.

She said, “The government is not now, nor will be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” she said. “Our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is Americans’ privacy and rights should be protected, and so that these systems are not used against people unfairly.”

Panton pointed out that the approach to digital vaccination certificates varies from state to state in the US, usually along partisan lines. “The more Democratic states are taking the approach of saying, ‘Yes, we are creating a verification system … the Republican-led states are saying, ‘No, we are not, and you can’t even ask.’”

He said Florida, Cayman’s main gateway for incoming travellers from the US and the departure point for the majority of cruise ships that visit here, was one of the Republican-led states that was taking the latter approach.

“It’s a problem,” Panton said.

However, he said Cayman was not willing to dial back on its requirement for securely verifiable vaccination documentation, “because of fear that it will be taken advantage of”.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee has previously said that concern over the possible use of fake vaccination certificates was the main reason for Cayman implementing an electronic verification requirement for people availing of the five-day quarantine period.

Currently, only people with certificates that can be securely verified – from Cayman’s HSA or the UK’s National Health Service – can use the five-day quarantine. People with vaccination certs from other countries or jurisdictions need to quarantine for 10 days, while unvaccinated arrivals are required to isolate for 14 days.

Panton said Thursday, “We only need a few cases to get by to have a significant increase in infections and we have a BVI situation.”

The British Virgin Islands re-imposed lockdown restrictionsearlier this week after a surge in COVID-19  cases.

Panton acknowledged that as Cayman slowly reopens its borders, the risk of community transmission would grow, but that Cayman could protect itself against people getting very sick, or needing hospitalisation, or dying, by ensuring that the vast majority of its population is vaccinated. Approximately 64% of the total estimated population of 71,100 is currently fully vaccinated.

The premier also addressed the question of when vaccination certificates issued in Cayman would be electronically verifiable for people from here travelling overseas, stating that this was “imminent”.

“We are going to be able to provide our own app-based QR code so we can verify to other countries that our people have been vaccinated,” he said.

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  1. This is SO stupid. There are zero people creating fake vaccination cards to go to the Cayman Islands. By this time everyone has made their choice. Either they are going to get vaccinated, or they aren’t. Oh by the way, according to the Cayman opening plan, everyone can come back in 2022 regardless of vacc status. Is there some sort of magic day between now and then were the people who are creating fake vaccination cards (who don’t exist) are somehow all of a sudden OK to come to Cayman? It’s all just so ridiculous. We, like many other Americans, are just going to spend our tourism dollars elsewhere and may very well never come back.

    • Exactly how would you know that no one would create a fake vaccination certificate if it allows them to travel to destinations they would like to travel but wouldn’t be be able to otherwise? There are many people who would like to travel but object to having the vaccine. There would be no point in having a vaccine requirement if we cannot be sure that you’ve had the vaccine. It’s just a matter of commonsense really.

      • You can’t be more wrong.

        1. The anti-vax people do not travel to the Caribbean

        2. Anti-vax people take pride in not being vaccinated and would never be caught dead with a vac card

        3. Anyone who is pro vax can easily get a free shot

        The whole “they are coming with fake vac cards” is a 100% lie to cover the fact that you don’t want tourists.

      • The minuscule amount of people that would try and “fake it” is not worth this absurd idea that mass tourists spending thousands and thousands to visit the islands are going to try and use a “fake” vaccine passport. But whatever you need to tell yourself to keep everyone locked up.

      • What is common sensical about worrying about vaccine card fakers (that don’t actually exist, mind you but I will play along anyways) in say, October, and then welcoming everyone back in January?

  2. Given this story, the days of the US tourist are over. Each US state has it’s own Health Department. There is no national immunization record system. Either CIG has failed to understand how the US actually functions or they simply don’t want US tourists.

  3. New York State , USA also has a vaccine registry system which is very tightly controlled thru the main vaccination registry program already in place for all vaccines in New York ( NYSSIS). You can then verify with the state and download to receive a QR code on your phone via an app – “Excelsior” . Please review NYS as well for ease of verification. We plan to travel to Cayman when Phase 4 starts on Oct 14th, accommodations just booked to arrive Oct 15th, fingers crossed the phases all roll out as planned

  4. How many times must you be told??? It is against the US constitution to have a federal vaccination database. Each state is responsible for the certification of the vaccinations that are given there. We have an email from the state health department confirming where & when we were vaccinated & which type was used. No one is going to take the time or spend the money to fake this when they can go to any other island (that is much cheaper) and not have to quarantine. You all need to get over yourselves & rejoin the real world.

  5. Who would bother forging or counterfeiting a vaccination card in order to spend average $20K on vacation in Cayman when they can go to a dozen other islands and vacation cheaper and without feeling like they are being treated as untrusted and unwelcome? MOT/DOT say they want to target the affluent. The affluent don’t forget when you treat them like criminals.

    Back in 2020 Dr. Lee wanted 80% of 65K population vaccinated, when only 78% of population was even eligible for the jab… then “new, eager to reopen” Government takes over and increases the denominator without actual census ( just estimating).. and goes from 75% of eligible adults to 80% of new, higher denominator… a number that cannot be achieved (so not a realistic goal). Do they get why everyone accuses them of moving the goal posts?

    Now they have a reopening plan… albeit delayed and still with quarantine… they won’t honor a physical USA-CDC vaccination card? Perhaps the Cayman Islands (all 65K pop.) can centralize and share individual health information, but the US with 330MM has privacy safeguards.

    Also understand that non-state-residents cannot register their vaccinations with the state of Louisiana. You have to have jabbed there to use their service. How many travelers do we even get from California or Louisiana?

    If Dr. Lee has the name of a private verification service that will satisfy the Cayman Islands verification need… announce that so that it can be vetted right away. There isn’t one. No private service has access to all 160MM vaccination records, even if USA citizens register on the App and okay the privacy issue.

    Walk this back… trust good people who stepped up and got the jab. Don’t make them continue to jump through hoops just for the Cayman Islands.

  6. What a joke Mr. Panton! Excuses after excuses! People that are spending money and going to come from Cayman are NOT faking passports. Way to hold thousands upon thousands coming to your shores because of a rare chance that someone will “fake it” to get in. This is what happens when you put government in the hands of a rookie.

  7. I’m not trying to mean or sarcastic but your phased reopening is fantasy.

    “Cayman Islands government had hoped that the US vaccination certificate issue would be “quickly resolved”. “I am still being advised that that is going to happen,” – If this is true you are being lied to. The U.S. has 330 MILLION people of which approximately 158 MILLION are vaccinated. Nothing is resolved quickly. No offense but we are not an island of 71,000. Using your words you are digging in out of fear, not science or logic. If any sort of “system” will be created in the U.S. it will be a patchwork of both private and state and will take many years.

    Again no offense but I find mention of possibly cruse ships in Jan. laughable.

    Also if I understand all this correctly none of the phased in will even begin until you reach 80% vaccination which is 94% of the eligible population. That’s just not a believable expectation for this year even for a population of only 71,000. Perhaps sometime next year.

    You’re really going to need to figure out how to make the 5.5 million CI per month that you spend on stipends more permanent or figure out how to make the Cayman economy largely a tourist free island because you are going to be living in a rather insular & closed society/island for quite some time to come.

  8. All this for a virus that has a 98.8% survival rate… and even higher for young people. The 6 county area around Kansas City Missouri has a maximum 40% and a minimum 32% vaccination rate. That or a little higher is all your truly going to see in all the USA. We have loved and enjoyed Cayman with our children, extended family and friends for over 25 years but now am sorry to say may be taking our holiday dollars elsewhere. Sad to even say!!!

  9. Suzi R. I would love to see your science presentation on how they are actually doing the right thing for everyone there. My friends who are losing homes and cars and other assets because of the closure and this fantasy of 80% vaccination rate in Cayman would disagree with you every which way until Sunday. Love how people supporting the government who can no longer point to science as the reason when science has proven them wrong really dont know how to respond with other than ” Stay Strong…its definitely the right thing”. hmmmmm…..You might be a perfect candidate for Premier Panton’s government.

  10. With all due respect Mr Panton and Dr Lee, you say you are following the science of this disease, please do so and stop living in fear. I would respectfully suggest you both register for the National Academy of Engineering and Science Workshop on the Utility, Feasibility, Security, and Ethics of Verifiable COVID-19 Credentials for International Travel

    August 3–5, 2021 | 11AM-1PM ET

    The workshop will discuss the utility, feasibility, security and ethics of establishing verifiable COVID-19 credentials for international travel. The workshop will explore issues that need to be addressed in order to have effective, feasible and secure ways to document and provide health information before travel, and to ensure the request is ethical and does not exacerbate inequities. Participants will contribute perspectives from domestic and international governments, multilateral health and business organizations, academia, and private and nonprofit sectors.

    To quote: “Cayman Islands government had hoped that the US vaccination certificate issue would be “quickly resolved”. “I am still being advised that that is going to happen,”— as other readers have pointed out, clearly this will not happen in the US soon for a variety of reasons. You have shifted the goal posts several times and I expect the practice to continue. The result will be living in a closed/insulated society for some time. I suspect this will do damage to your tourism, and I am thinking this might be the end goal.

    Again, as a home owner for over 20 years, I will not return until you “trust” my vaccination certificate that I stepped and obtained for MY health, the COMMUNITY’S health, and to begin to return to travel. I am already making plans to spend my tourism dollars elsewhere.

  11. It is also working the other way round – the HSA certificate is NOT being accepted in Europe – the only one acceptable is the NHS cert from UK, and in order for us to get that we have to register with the NHS and not even sure if they will then issue a NHS certificate. What a MESS!!!

  12. Cayman thinks they are going to force the United States to create a national vaccination certification program? No chance.

    But MA, where I was vaccinated has 6.7Million people and we have a perfectly adequate verification system that produces an official documentation. This is the same system that has been used for decades, with the same yellow form format. There has never been a problem with those being accepted.

    So, we like Cayman. We had a house there until a couple of months ago. We were going to buy another, but will not. There are other places not bent on destroying their economy to spite Americans.

  13. The Premier’s comments are a very thin veil for either a lack of facts or a desire to dismiss the growing concern for the incredible economic deficit and Caymanian personal need for reduced quarantines. Pointing a finger at the US Federal government or even worse, politics in the US is plain foolish and a damning character stain on anyone making such comments.

    In the US, there are multiple levels of government, each with their own responsibilities and limitations, neither of which, are political in nature. Shame on you, Premier Panton for suggesting such a thing in defense of your position. The basic government levels are; Municipal, County, State and Federal. I should point out that, at the initial level, there are thousands of Municipal Governments efficiently serving communities much larger and more diverse than the entire Cayman population. None of them have border restrictions relating to Covid.

    Despite the hyped media reports that may have been used selectively by the Premier to plead his case, the current Federal Administration as well as the former Trump Administration clearly and consistently delegated the Covid vaccination responsibilities of securing (from the Federal authorities), administering and accurately recording vaccinations for official records to the States. In an effort to best serve their divergent populations, most States have further delegated the same responsibilities the Counties. As I noted previously, virtually every County in every State serves more individuals than the collective Cayman Islands and they do it far more efficiently, effectively and fairly.

    I received my first vaccine in Cayman tis past February as soon as it was available to me and received my HSA verification card. I was scheduled to return to The States prior to my scheduled dose. Knowing that, I asked and was assured by the HSA administrator and the medical technician administering the shot, that I could receive my second shot in the US and have it recorded on my HSA card as an official record. I did exactly that. I also secured an “OFFICIAL” County document attesting to my second dose in the US as noted on my HSA card.

    I applied to Cayman Travel to return. I explained my situation to Travel Cayman and was told to contact HSA and Customs and Border Control. I communicated with both and shared copies of my HSA card, my “OFFICIAL” government document attesting to my second dose. Each agency pointed a finger at the other, regardless of what I was told originally. Seems like the Premier is doing the same finger pointing at a foreign government, all all perpetuating the hardships of the people he and the Parliament were sworn to serve.

    I have been fully vaccinated and I have been tested 13 times, all with negative results. I currently sit in a 10 day quarantine, largely because it is easier to ignore or dismiss an issue than it is to deal with it responsibility and realistically, still without jeopardizing the safety of the Cayman citizens and residents.

  14. Who from the US would Fake a Vaccine Certificate to come to an Expensive Island? Which because of the lock down, lack of jobs, seems to have a PROBLEMATIC rise in CRIME!!!
    Turks and Caicos is a better place!

  15. As was said earlier, New York State has a digital “passport “ called Excelsior Pass. Issued by the state in a very controlled program. It’s designed to be verified via a QR code. The government should find no problem using it in addition to California and Louisianna

    • Because New York was such a leader in the pandemic? Laughable how New Yorkers think they are leaders and yet they like, Cayman destroyed economies because government “knows better”. Want leadership and freedoms respected all you have to do is look to republican led states who ACTUALLY followed the science.

  16. Has anybody taken a look at our own vaccination certificates granted by the HSA? They look completely fake and home-made to every other country. We are holding others to much higher standards than we ourselves live up to. We expect to be welcomed in other places with our non-Verifiable certificates (which very few people globally carry in the first instance) which could easily be judged by others as “fake” or “forged” .. I worry that government is channeling new potential hurdles to reopening with talk like this. We need to take a more practical approach and make a firm and certain plan to get open regardless of who gets sick from the unvaccinated camp. We can’t protect ourselves forever and without visitors having the ability to travel to cayman, we are digging a deep future made-in-cayman recession that will not be as easy to bounce back from. The lack of flights and ability to cross borders affects every industry here. Construction related contractors who can’t come for a quarantine To carry a local project forward, Tourists and part time residents who can’t visit their second homes here. Financial services people who can’t get a flight down and are getting tired of the runaround, starting to look at Dubai and Singapore as viable alternatives. All the pillars Of the economy holding us up Need to travel and open borders to compete and flourish. Government needs to bite the bullet and open this place before good people start to leave because there are other options worldwide. Turks have done it, Bermuda is doing it, other Caribbean nations are doing it. BVI flareup is better than a permanently closed economy

  17. Sadly, there are people who are faking vaccination certificates, whether you want to believe it or not. It isn’t hard to do, all you need is photoshop and a good laser printer. It’s not about not wanting US travellers to come to the island, it’s about keeping Cayman COVID FREE. And protecting the lives of Caymanians and all the work permit holders. We would love to see the tourists, believe me, but not until it is safe to do so. Right now, it is not safe. Cases are up in the USA. You have to get the situation under control in the US before anyone can travel.

  18. While the PM states the lack of a US national plan is the issue when allowing a shorter quarentine, he clearly doesn’t understand the US Government makeup. While he may not need to be very informed, he should have a better understanding of the country that has the most tourists visiting the Caymans. In any business wouldn’t you want to know the most about your customers? If the PM did understand the USA, he would know that states rights are so important along with privacy and overreach of government in its citizens lives. So if waiting for a national plan from the USA is his goal, the PM will be waiting a long time and the citizen of Caymans will continue to suffer.
    By the way, the USA doesn’t have national drivers licenses, each individual state issues their own licenses, yet I don’t have an issue renting a car, interesting. Maybe set guidelines for information and go from there.

  19. Agree with most. Anti-vax won’t travel and won’t dare be caught with a Vax card fake or not.
    Part of the unsaid issue may be with the needed help from other countries and trying to prove if they have had the “jab” or not.
    We have been traveling to Caymans for 10+ years and want to spend more of our hard earned money there.
    Open up. Let’s look at who the travelers are that have tested positive and focus on that group!