According to The Washington Post, the Biden administration is working on proposals to handle certificates that would enable people to show they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. These certificates, also known as “vaccine passports,” can be viewed on free mobile apps or printed. Many businesses have announced that they would demand evidence of vaccination before authorizing people to attend concerts or travel.
Creating a standardized framework for these types of qualifications would be challenging, but the stakes are high: an inconsistent variety of choices will be confusing and could harm public health efforts, officials said at a Federal Health IT Coordinating Council meeting on March 2nd. According to a slide obtained by The Washington Post, “a chaotic and ineffective vaccine credential strategy could hamper our pandemic response by weakening health protection initiatives, slowing economic growth, and undermining public trust and confidence.”
At least 17 organizations, including the World Health Organization, the International Air Transport Association, and a software company coalition called the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), are now working on their own versions. The state of New York has already begun to use an IBM-developed digital pass. It can show vaccination status or COVID-19 test results, and venues such as Madison Square Garden have already stated that it will be used as part of the admission process.
As the projects move forward, federal agencies and organizations working with vaccine credentials are dealing with a variety of scientific, legal, and equity concerns. When vaccinations aren’t widely accessible to all, as they are right now in white and affluent societies, using vaccination as a ticket to multiple activities is dangerous. Credential programmed would need to have strong privacy safeguards and be immune to hacking and forgery. Paper vaccination cards distributed at vaccination sites are already being forged.
Officials must also consider potential booster shots as well as the period of vaccine safety. More details on the Biden administration’s approach to overseeing vaccine credentials will be available shortly, according to the administration. Almost 30 percent of the US population has already received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but an official told The Washington Post that it’s vital to step slowly on this initiative. “This has a high chance of being designed incorrectly, used incorrectly, or a bureaucratic mess,” the official said.