Privacy groups warn coronavirus vaccination passports “unfair” until jabs are widely available
01/29/2021 // Franz Walker // Views

A joint coalition of tech companies, including Microsoft and Mayo Clinic, are working to implement Wuhan COVID-19 vaccine passports to verify who has had the jab while preventing others from making false claims about being vaccinated.

The venture, called the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), is aimed at helping people get encrypted digital copies of their immunization records stored in a digital wallet.

In response to VCI, privacy groups are warning that such a system could be unfair, at least until a majority of people have had the vaccine.

"Until everyone has access to an effective vaccine, any system requiring a passport for entry or service will be unfair," states U.K.-based non-profit Privacy International. "The vaccine is a public health exercise, and must not be a new discriminator."

Vaccination tracking already exists but isn't centralized like VCI system

Similar efforts to utilize a person's vaccination history to track whether or not that person has had a COVID-19 jab already exist. In the U.S., the federal government is already using paper cards that remind people who receive the jabs of their vaccine manufacturer, batch number of date of vaccination. But this card system isn't online and there's no way for consumers to get easy access to their immunization records online to establish their vaccination status for work or travel.

Meanwhile, some airlines such as United Airlines and JetBlue are already trying out CommonPass, a health passport app from the Commons Project. This app allows passengers to retrieve their COVID-19 test results from their health providers alongside a confirmation code that can allow them to board certain flights out of the country.


VCI, which is also being spearheaded by the Commons Project, would work in a similar manner.

"The goal of the Vaccination Credential Initiative is to empower individuals with digital access to their vaccination records so they can use tools like CommonPass to safely return to travel, work, school, and life, while protecting their data privacy," says The Commons Project's chief executive Paul Meyer.

To do this, VCI is working to make the credentials using the SMART Health Cards specification, which is built on an open standard and has a decentralized infrastructure.

"Open standards and interoperability are at the heart of VCI's efforts and we look forward to supporting the World Health Organization and other global stakeholders in implementing and scaling open global standards for health data interoperability," adds Meyer.

Centralized vaccination passports "open a can of worms"

Privacy International agrees that open access to vaccination records and a vaccine passport is "probably necessary." But the group worries that implementing such a system when only a limited number of people have been vaccinated, can "open a can of worms." (Related: Compilation of recent stories and videos covering covid vaccine injuries, side effects and DEATHS.)

As part of this, they raise questions on how much the data on the VCI passports need to be trusted as well as who should be given access to it.

"To what degree does this documentation need to be trusted to be reviewed by other providers?" the group asks. "And who else will want access? That is where things get more complicated. And that's where ambitions lie."

Some legal experts have also raised similar questions. They warn that an immunity passport such as VCI's system could lead to the creation of a distinction between vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals. In addition, some groups who could make more use of greater freedoms than most, such as young people, are not scheduled to be inoculated for months.

At the same time, scientists have also warned that not enough is known about how long the immunity conferred by COVID-19 vaccines lasts or how effective they are at reducing transmission to trust vaccination passports.

“There’s not enough evidence to suggest that immunity passports are a good idea,” said Nicole Hassoun, professor of philosophy at Binghamton University.

Follow for more on the issues surrounding Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines.

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