We have reached the crossroads folks! Globally, more and more people are getting vaccinated each day. This is, ever so evident with the endless selfies posts that are complete with a CDC vaccination card. It’s truly the new ‘I voted’ selfie. And may I just add, I’m shook (not by the selfies), but more so of individuals who are displaying their full name, date of birth, where they got their vaccination, and which vaccine they received, all out there for all to see.
DATA BREACH PEOPLE!! But I digress.
We are turning a corner by having a vaccine, but now, the new topic of convo (and some action) is vaccine passports and vaccine verification tools. But before getting into the nuts and bolt of it all. Let’s recognize – needing a vaccine passport or verification is not new. For many, showing vaccine credentials begins at kid level. We are asked for proof immunization records to attend schools, college, summer camps, etc.
So what is all the fuss about?
What is a vaccine passport and a vaccine verification?
First off, lets get to brass tacks. The term ‘vaccine passport’ is being applied in a whole boat load of scenarios that has nothing to do with the traditional definition of passport. Let’s be clear. Countries are not issuing out ‘vaccine passports’ – an authorized government booklet that allow its’ citizens to travel internationally.
The term vaccine passport is being applied domestically and internationally. This is where the verbiage, ‘vaccine verification’ is more accurate in domestic use, but now the two terms are being used interchangeably.
In these broad terms, a ”vaccine passport” is essentially the use of an application, or physical documentation (CDC vaccination card) that verifies immunization and or a recent negative test for covid -19.
Countries and governments are either in beta testing of a vaccine verification process or have an application in use.
Spoiler Alert! The world has already gone through this.
Covid-19 is not the first time the world has needed to prove immunizations.
Back in the day, like late 20th century. Smallpox exploded around the world. The virus was highly contagious and yielded a 30% mortality rate. Once a vaccine was developed. The ‘shot’, which was really a physician lancing the arm with a knife or lancet. Thus leaving a scar that was about the size of a nickel and easily identifiable.
In U.S. cities that were struck the hardest by the disease. Local governments made the vaccine compulsory and official vaccination certificates were required to go to work, school, ride public transit, etc. If one didn’t receive a vaccine they would be fined $5 (about $US 150 today). Since the certificates were easily forged. The scar was made default to determine if a person had been vaccinated.
But for those who were not down with getting vaccinated, went rogue. Much like the paper certification being forged. Some anti-vaccinators went as far as faking the scar by applying a small amount of nitric acid to their arm to replicate the smallpox vaccination scar. Those that didn’t want to go that hard core, turned to a company that produced faux scars that can stick onto an arm. Yeesh, talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
What are we seeing in the US with vaccine verification?
The federal government is not issuing vaccination passport procedures. Biden’s administration has stressed there is no federal vaccine verification mandate, and there is no centralized vaccine database.
Yet some states have taken the reigns and initiated a vaccine verification solution. On the opposing side, there are a few states like Mississippi, Florida, and Texas. Where the governors are not supporting any vaccine verification procedures or have banned them all together. Why is it always Florida that likes to learn the hard way? And Texas… come on, T. Cruz – go back on vacation! Yet, why am I surprised?!
New York is test piloting IBM’s Excelsior Pass App (a digital vaccine verification app) at venues such as Madison Square Garden. After entering your covid-19 vaccination information into the app, in turn you will be provided with a QR code that holds that vaccination information and any recent covid-19 negative test results.
The user simply displays the QR code on their smartphone at the venue. The venue scans it, the app confirms verification and the user gains entry. If a user doesn’t have a smartphone, they can log into the website on a computer, enter their data and print out the QR code to have scanned.
In Orange County in California, health authorities in Anaheim have launched a covid vaccine passport that is also in beta testing. It’s called Quick response code. Like the Excelsior Pass, it too issues out a QR code that verifies a user’s inoculation which is scanned at a venue.
What are the challenges with vaccine verifications?
Equality. Not everyone has a smartphone, easy access to wifi, and accessibility to be vaccinated.
In regards to international travel. By instituting a system, this incentivizes and gives priority to the wealthy. While poorer countries remain at risk and still wait for vaccinations. Is that ethical?
The obvious concern, privacy. These verification apps claim not to store data locally nor in a state’s database. It only verifies someone’s inoculation. No matter the claims, always read the terms and conditions/service.
Those who choose not to be vaccinated may find themselves to be at a disadvantage to what’s available.
Kids and teenagers are not old enough for the vaccine.
What other countries are doing vaccine verifications?
At the time of writing this, Israel has vaccinated more people per capita than any other country.
How and why you ask? They have a deal with BioNTech and their Pfizer vaccine. Which is, Israel will provide vaccination data in exchange for gobs of Pfizer vaccines. Basically, the country is a non-clinical testing environment.
This propelled Israel to start a green pass system back in February. Much like the beta testing of the digital verification apps and the use of QR codes being done in parts of the US. The green pass system has similar functionality. The QR code holds vaccination verification data which is the green ‘’light” to enter into cafes, concerts, theatres, restaurants, etc. Their results have been reopening their economy and the infection rates have reduced.
International Travel and Vaccine Passports
We all know there are stronger passports than others. With the respect of having an advantage to travel more freely, aka stronger passports do not need to apply for a Visa to enter. As for a vaccine passport, this isn’t a new concept.
For decades, there are countries that require proof of vaccinations against yellow fever, polio and malaria for entry. But in regards to Covid-19. Countries are implementing a solution to verify vaccination and negative Covid-19 test results.
Globally, there isn’t a unified requirement nor process for vaccine passports. Every airline and countries parameters are different. Some airlines may require a completely different set of must have’s to the final destination. And that’s even if you’re allowed into the destination and or transit through.
But this hasn’t stopped governments and companies from putting in place a vaccine verification procedure.
There are a few out there, and they all are similar in capability and format. Just like the domestic vaccine verification apps, the vaccine passports apps issue out a scannable QR code with a passenger’s covid test information and or verified vaccine certification. They can also hold the user’s flight information.
Singapore has begun utilizing Malaysia’s Immunitee Health Passport public blockchain-based app. It verifies the authenticity of both the covid-19 vaccine and test results.
Officials in the European Union are expecting to launch ‘’digital green certificates” in June.
Back in February, the Kingdom of Bahrain was the first country to launch a digital covid-19 passport. The App BeAware also has the capabilities to manage vaccine bookings. The country also has additional measures for combating the virus. All travelers entering must take a covid-19 test on arrival, another one on their 5th day after arrival and if the stay is longer, the traveler must take a third test on the tenth day.
There are still travel restrictions, quarantine measures, and covid testing taking involved with travel. So it’s prudent to keep abreast of destinations and transit locations regulations, rules, and which digital vaccine passport app is being used.
What does this all mean for you?
While all this might seem like an inconvenience. Vaccine verification tools are a temporary fix to aid with economic recovery. Which right now, is based on the vaccination efforts (public participation), covid rate of infections, and hospital figures.
This truly is the crossroads. We have reached the milestone of having covid-19 vaccines and now we will see how many people will get a vaccine or not.
The obvious seems clear. If one takes the vaccinated path and participates with vaccine verification procedures. The path will gain them access to events, functions, and travel that participate in a verification vaccination process.
Not having a vaccine, can put one at risk and it could limit the range of what is accessible to them.
Which either path individuals take. We must continue to be vigilant in both individual and public health. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance.