With the Covid-19 vaccination accelerating, attention is shifting to tools for people to demonstrate that they have been vaccinated and are able to overcome the asphyxiant restrictions used to combat the epidemic. Translate.
Although this idea is met with some objections to privacy and fairness concerns, several types of coronavirus vaccination records, sometimes referred to as “vaccine passports”, have already existed in the US. in paper and digital format. Hundreds of airlines, governments and other organizations are experimenting with new electronic versions, and their numbers are increasing daily, although their use is so limited.
The portable vaccine profile is an old idea: Visitors to many parts of the world, children enrolled and some medical staff have long had to provide them as proof that they have been vaccinated. prevention.
But vaccine passports using digital tools take this concept to a new level of sophistication, and experts predict that electronic verification will soon become ubiquitous, especially for travel. not international, as well as for admission to crowded spaces such as theaters.
Here are some of the key questions that arise.
“What is a vaccine passport?”
In general, people are using this term to refer to an electronic vaccination record, be it in the form of a QR code, which can be easily accessed via a smartphone or can be stored on the device, although it can also be printed.
In its simplest sense, the document is something like a physical card created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is usually given to people when they receive their first Covid-19 injection in the United States, or The World Health Organization’s “yellow card”, has been used for decades by travelers to show vaccinations against diseases like yellow fever. But those are on paper, filled out by hand, and pretty prone to tampering.
The tool may have to deal with a number of variables: It is not clear how long the vaccination period will last, there may be bad episodes and the emergence of new variants of the virus that potentially require vaccines. new. So, in the long run, electronic records may need to show which particular vaccines a person received, from when and when.
More than a dozen competitive versions are being developed and promoted.
How will it be used?
In the short term, the most obvious application is likely to be in international travel, and the reason is obvious at any major airport: Passenger volumes are only a fraction of pre-pandemic levels, but still Huge lines at the airline stalls and passport control.
Many countries have requested evidence of a recent negative coronavirus test for entry. Until now, that document existed almost entirely on paper or on the passenger’s phone and had to be verified with the human eye at the airport, so booking for flights online, or even At an electronic kiosk in the station, was not possible.
With ease of travel, volumes will increase, and many countries are expected to start requesting proof of vaccination (or a previous coronavirus infection) for entry, or just ignoring quarantine requirements. . More passengers and requiring more documents will make handling more difficult to use.
“We have to automate this,” said Nick Careen, senior vice president of the International Air Transport Association, a trade conglomerate in the aviation industry. “Even if the request for vaccination is never approved, there will still be a request for testing and we can’t do this manually.”
(Even with an electronic system, officials say, some people will have to use paper health documents because they lack access to digital tools.)
There are no major countries publicly available for inbound vaccine verification. But some governments and businesses have asked for evidence of a negative coronavirus test to infiltrate certain crowded locations, and some have started asking for proof of vaccination, increasing the desire for an electronic replacement method.
To be most useful, a digital log will have to be widely accepted – by governments checking travelers, airlines and shipping lines checking passengers, by businesses restricting admission, and by a wide range of healthcare providers, government agencies and pharmacies that are injecting drugs.
That means it should be easy to use and relatively cheap. Asking organizations to spend a lot of money or adopt new software will be a hurdle.
Who is using it?
In February, the Israeli government began issuing digital Green Cards or physical certificates to people who have been vaccinated and are required to enter places such as hotels and theaters.
Over the past month, hundreds of other organizations around the world – airlines, governments, drugstore chains and others – have started using privately controlled digital systems to verify their identity. Intelligent authentication information on health. Most are using systems – including one called CommonPass and the International Air Transport Association’s own system, Travel Pass – on a test basis, to verify negative coronavirus tests.
These systems are also designed to show evidence of vaccinations, if so is required.
In March, Aruba and JetBlue started allowing passengers from the United States with negative test results using CommonPass, developed by Project Commons, a Swiss-based non-profit organization, with support from the World Economic Forum. Lufthansa passengers flying into the United States can also use it.
In the same month, Singapore Airlines became the first airline to use a limited Travel Pass for those flying between Singapore and London, and will be widely available in May.
Also in March, the State of New York became the first US government to deploy a system, the Excelsior Pass, developed in conjunction with IBM, which some sites have used to demonstrate vaccinations. The governors of Florida and Texas have vowed to block any such systems in their states, calling it excessive government outreach and an invasion of privacy.
Iceland this month eased entry restrictions on people who have already been vaccinated, and the UK is about to begin testing a vaccine verification requirement to attend sporting events, although so far both countries The digital system does not apply.
The Biden administration acknowledged that private entities would use such systems, but said the federal government would not participate in creating a system. Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said: “There will be no federal immunization database and no federal authority that requires everyone to have a single immunization certificate,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said this week.
However, that does not preclude a federal agency from using a privately developed electronic health login to screen international travelers.
What are the obstacles and objection?
Many objections have been made about privacy, but the developers of the system say those can be resolved.
Paul Meyer, chief executive of the Commons Project Foundation, said CommonPass and its app, for example, don’t keep any of the user’s health records. If a participating airline needs to know if a passenger has tested or vaccinated negative and a participating pharmacy has information, CommonPass can contact both and return a yes or no answer. without passing any specific data.
“You don’t have to hand over your health records to Yankee Stadium or an airline,” said Meyer.
Many healthcare and technology organizations have come together into the Vaccine Certification Initiative, to develop a broadly unified set of open standards, that is, the underlying software of one. The verification system is transparent and it can be easily adapted to other systems, while at the same time protecting privacy. WHO has a similar initiative, the Smart Immunization Certificate.
But some companies are creating proprietary, closed systems they hope to sell to customers, and some companies will obviously have access to users’ information.
One concern is that many systems may be incompatible, defeating the purpose of making it easy to check someone’s status.
Another objection is any request to demonstrate immunization status that would discriminate against those unable to get vaccinated or refuse, and there remains uncertainty about preventive immunization. how to prevent virus transmission.
For those reasons, the WHO said this week that it is not in favor of asking for proof of vaccination while traveling – for now.