Health and technology groups are working together to create a digital vaccination passport in the expectation that governments, airlines and other businesses will require proof people have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
The Vaccination Credential Initiative, a coalition of organisations including Microsoft, Oracle and the US healthcare non-profit Mayo Clinic, aims to establish standards to verify whether a person has had their shot and prevent people falsely claiming to be protected against the disease.
The coalition builds on work done by one of its members, The Commons Project, to develop an internationally accepted digital certificate to prove travellers have tested negative for Covid-19. The pass developed by the non-profit, established with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, is now being used by all three major airline alliances.
Paul Meyer, chief executive of The Commons Project, said people vaccinated so far were often handed just a piece of paper, reminiscent of the “old yellow cards”. By working with health IT companies, such as Epic and Cerner in the US, the new system will be able to draw from electronic medical records to create a digital card.
Mr Meyer said the coalition was in talks with several governments that expected their entry requirements to evolve over the next few months from mandating negative tests to a “hybrid”, accepting either tests or proof of vaccination.
“Individuals are going to need to have to produce vaccination records for a lot of aspects of getting back to life as normal,” he added. “We live in a globally connected world. We used to anyway — and we hope to again.”
Each country can set its own rules such as, for example, which vaccines it will accept. The system will be charged with keeping the data secure and individuals will hold their record in a digital wallet, or on a paper QR code, so they can control who they share it with.
Joan Harvey, president of care solutions at Evernorth, the health services arm of insurer Cigna, said she expected some businesses, like events organisers, may require proof of vaccination from their customers, while universities may want it from students, and employers from workers.
“We insure thousands of companies around the world and obviously this is a very keen interest for them . . . not only how do they [return to] global travel and be able to do their jobs, but to do it in a certified way, where the consumer owns the data,” she added.
As new variants of the virus spread across the world, The Commons Project says it has seen a substantial increase in interest.
“Many countries have either shut their borders entirely or now put in place mandatory testing requirements for all international travel and that’s all been in the last three weeks,” Mr Meyer said.
In the UK, the government has said it will begin trialing its own health passport system, developed by biometrics company iProov and cyber security group Mvine. The scheme, first reported by the Telegraph, will allow thousands of people in two as yet unnamed local authorities to upload their vaccine information on to an app and help the NHS to track who has been inoculated.
Additional reporting by Anna Gross