With the advent of a “new normal”, there are talks for a vaccine passport which can be shown to authorities without revealing sensitive information.
A number of companies and technology groups have been busy developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details of the COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, movie theaters, offices and foreign countries.
According to CNN, the Common Trust Network, which is an initiative by Geneva-based non-profit The Commons Project and the World Economic Forum, has partnered with several airlines including Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, as well as hundreds of health systems across the US and the government of Aruba.
The CommonPass app allows users to upload medical data such as a COVID-19 test result, or eventually a proof of vaccination by a hospital or medical professional, generating a health certificate or pass in the form of a QR code that can be shown to authorities without revealing sensitive information. For travel, the app lists health pass requirements at the points of departure and arrival based on one’s itinerary. Thomas Crampton, chief marketing and communications officer for The Commons Project, said one can be tested every time one crosses a border. “You cannot be vaccinated every time you cross a border.” He stressed the need for a simple and easily transferable set of credentials.
In similar lines, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had said in November that it was developing the IATA travel pass, a digital health pass that will include the traveler’s test and vaccination certificates. A standardized health pass of some sort will likely prove to be necessary, given that travelers have already found ways to defeat testing by faking negative COVID-19 results.
IBM also developed its own app, called Digital Health Pass, which allows companies and venues to customize indicators they would require for entry including coronavirus tests, temperature checks and vaccination records. Credentials corresponding to those indicators are then stored in a mobile wallet.
The World Health Organizatio, in a statement, said any standardized proof of vaccination would have to be as per the international Health Regulations and would happen with debate and engagement with the member states. “We will need to secure enough supply and access to safe and effective vaccines before such a certificate would be feasible,” it said.
Dr Ida Bergstrom, an immunization and vaccination specialist at Farragut Medical and Travel Care in Washington DC, said each country will likely set its own parameters. “But I definitely think with international travel, some airlines might require it, and some countries might require it.” Analysts highlight that several countries are up for the idea for an “immunity passport”, which would allow one to skip quarantine if one can show proof that he or she has already had a COVID-19 vaccine. Countries like Iceland and Hungary, which are heavily reliant on tourism, are considering this model.