A year ago, vaccinations to combat the COVID-19 pandemic appeared like a pipe dream. Today, doses have been provided to over one-quarter of the world’s population. Some are being required to confirm their inclusion, resulting in the emergence of so-called vaccine passports. The specifics of these credentials differ by location, but they are all the same: digital health information kept on your phone to be used as proof that you are a low risk to others.
As the COVID-19 vaccination becomes more widely available, the end of cautious quarantining – and a fresh beginning for travel and events – feels closer than ever.
This is excellent news for the companies and vacation locations that have experienced the most losses in the previous year. New issues about the safety systems that will be required to reduce COVID-19 transmission when travel resumes have already begun to emerge.
Several nations have already begun adopting COVID-19 vaccination passports, with considerable and variable policies and implementations. In February 2021, Israel began providing ‘green permits’ to vaccinated people for limited internal mobility and access to enterprises like gyms and cinemas. Other nations, including China and Bahrain, have begun issuing digital vaccination passports to the vaccinated people in order to allow them overseas traveling. Finally, evidence of COVID-19 immunization allows passengers to bypass travel restrictions, such as testing or quarantining, in countries like Georgia, Estonia, Poland, and Seychelles.
What is a Vaccine Passport?
A vaccination passport certifies that you have tested negative for or have been protected against specific diseases. It can be either digital, such as a phone app, or tangible, such as a little paper card. You can carry it with you and present it during situations such as entering the office, boarding an airline, or visiting a restaurant, movie theatre, or gym.
As the COVID-19 epidemic proceeds, the idea is that with a vaccine passport system in place, businesses may be totally open to anybody who possesses a vaccine passport. Countries may be able to restart international travel without the need for quarantines. This would assist to strengthen economies while also ensuring the prevention of disease transmission.
It’s a fresh take on an old concept. For years, people who traveled to certain parts of the globe had to produce documents – or a World Health Organization (WHO) medical passport is known as a yellow card – to verify that they had received vaccinations against illnesses such as yellow fever, cholera, and rubella.
Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of vaccine passports.
Pros of Vaccine Passports
- COVID vaccine passports can act as a motivational tool for the masses to get vaccinated.
- People will no longer be deprived of work opportunities with a vaccine passport as sectors like travel, hospitality, and more can finally restart normally.
- The reopening of commercial services will help kickstart the economy and recover the losses faced throughout the pandemic.
- The vaccine passport, if implemented effectively, can lead countries towards normalcy.
Cons of Vaccine Passports
- People who refuse to get vaccinated by choice or age groups who are not eligible for vaccination will be discriminated against as they cannot possess a COVID vaccine passport.
- With multiple variants of the virus, the possession of vaccine passports does not really guarantee anything for sure as vaccinated people can still be carriers of the virus.
- Privacy is still a major concern for people with COVID passports as sensitive data can be used for various other purposes by authorities possessing such information.
- Fake vaccine passports can be generated and circulated which can put more people at risk.
What we can learn from previous rollouts?
Vaccine passports, from a public health standpoint, would substantially decrease the possibility for unvaccinated persons to spread the virus and imperil attempts to achieve herd immunity. Simultaneously, the administration and verification of private health information (PHI) introduced a new set of data privacy problems.
While previous passport programs may not have provided a perfect template to follow, the lessons acquired from earlier projects can nevertheless serve as important best practices as current vaccination passport initiatives gain traction. Let us take a deeper look at two key lessons:
Balancing fraud protection and usability
For decades, visitors to and from specific countries got signed and stamped “yellow cards” to indicate they had been immunized against highly infectious diseases such as yellow fever and cholera. To authenticate identification and certify immunization, this paper method depended on stamps and signatures from physicians and patients. While this paper-based approach allows for the creation of accurate vaccine records at the site of vaccination, it may be vulnerable to fraud if utilized as the foundation for a COVID-19 vaccine passport attempt.
Proven digital identification and digital signature technologies must be utilized as the foundation for a contemporary vaccination passport solution in order to authenticate user identity and increase public confidence. In addition to safeguarding the validation process, the ability to rapidly scan a digital QR code from a mobile phone will assist speed up verification at ports of entry and exit when compared to complex paper trails.
Increasing accessibility and interoperability
Today, over a billion individuals across the world are unable to verify their identity using standard tangible IDs such as passports, birth certificates, and driver licenses. Moving to a mobile-based vaccination passport method has the potential to widen accessibility disparities even more. To ensure that every user who wants access to a vaccination passport can acquire one, any successful vaccine passport system will need to integrate both mobile-based and smart card-based solutions.
To guarantee citizens may come and go as they choose, each vaccination passport solution that hits the market must be globally recognized and scannable across nations and sectors. A vaccination passport isn’t a passport until it has this capacity. In order to expedite the deployment process, utilizing existing validation technology and infrastructure – such as the global passport system – may offer one method to enhance the possibility of compatibility.
The good news is that the technology and infrastructure are currently in place to make a safe, accessible vaccination passport a reality. It is now up to each of the upcoming vaccination passport solutions to learn from prior credentialing issues and use the appropriate digital identity technologies to address them.
To begin with, there are still uncertainties and worries about the adoption of COVID vaccination passports. The vaccination passport is used for different purposes across countries, making the term “passport” highly ambiguous. Second, a digital approach to vaccination passports is unquestionably a wise decision since it eliminates the need for physical contact. However, it should be noted that not everyone has access to a smartphone or the internet. Finally, concerns of privacy, fraudulent activities, and accessibility remain unresolved.
To properly implement vaccination passports, more clarity and strict standards are required. Regulatory authorities such as the World Health Organization and other related groups should interfere in such choices and lead countries in the right direction. The vaccination passports are still in their infancy, and only time will tell if they are the right solution. It is preferable to learn from prior rollouts than to perform a series of trials and errors that the world cannot afford.