Microsoft is joining forces with tech companies and health organizations to begin development of a digital COVID-19 vaccination passport. The digital vaccination passport will be made available worldwide and could become a new standard for international travel in the post-pandemic world.
Digital Vaccination Passport in Your Pocket
The Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI) is a coalition of leading tech companies and healthcare organizations seeking to enable transparent vaccination record passports.
The idea is that once you have a COVID-19 vaccination, you can carry a digital verification of the vaccination. The digital vaccination passport will enable you to travel, return to work and school, and complete other “normal” tasks currently restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
VCI’s vision is to empower individuals to obtain an encrypted digital copy of their immunization credentials to store in a digital wallet of their choice. Those without smartphones could receive paper printed with QR codes containing W3C verifiable credentials.
Microsoft is just one of the companies joining the VCI. Other tech companies include Oracle and Salesforce, who are joined by health organizations, including The Commons Project, The Mayo Clinic, and Safe Health.
Paul Meyer, CEO of The Commons Project Foundation, confirms that “The goal of the Vaccination Credential Initiative is to empower individuals with digital access to their vaccination records,” using an open standard to protect privacy and begin to open the world back up.
The VCI will use the open SMART Health Cards specification, which is being developed as a short term solution “to enable a consumer to receive COVID-19 Immunization or lab results and present these results to another party in a verifiable manner.”
The Vaccination Credential Initiative will work alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure the digital vaccination passport will eventually become available worldwide.
Vaccination Passports Prompt Privacy Pushback
The introduction and rollout of a global digital vaccination passport are likely to prompt understandable pushback.
The privacy implications of such an initiative will come under scrutiny, with many arguing that they shouldn’t have to disclose their vaccination to anyone, period. It is hard not to agree.
However, the flip side is that some countries may begin restricting entry based upon COVID-19 vaccination status, especially if the pandemic doesn’t show any sign of abating. Against a backdrop of increasing infection numbers and new COVID variants, countries may require travelers to present a valid digital vaccination passport before entry.
As not everyone will have a COVID vaccination (for whatever reason, but we’re not getting into that), it could place additional and potentially unnecessary restrictions on regular people.