Vaccine Passports: Will a simple app be the answer?
The debate over Covid Vaccine Passports continues to rumble on. With a variety of different types beginning to roll out across countries. It seems inevitable that the UK will have to adopt a version for at least international travel, if not domestically at first.
So where are we in terms of actual vaccine passports?
Estonia, are already planning to start issuing digital certificates in the form of a QR code, showing proof of vaccination by the end of April.
Individuals will be able to download their own unique code to prove they have been vaccinated and showing how many doses they have received. They can either print it off or store it on a smartphone.
In Israel where their vaccination programme is seeing similar success to that in the UK. They have already implemented a Green Pass to anyone who has been fully vaccinated or has recovered from Covid-19. They have to show it to access facilities such as hotels, gyms or theatres.
It is available as a paper certificate or in an app, which links users to their personal health ministry data.
The app is opening up opportunities for international travel. Israel has struck deals with Greece and Cyprus so Israeli citizens with passes can travel to those two countries.
Denmark plans to use its "Coronapas" vaccine passport domestically from Easter - but it could also be used later as a tool for international travel.
Like a number of European countries, Denmark already has a secure digital ID system called NemID, and the Coronapas will be linked to that. NemID gives Danes access to various online platforms, including a digital listing of an individual's health records and test results.
The pass will play a key role in easing Danish Covid restrictions - most of which are expected to end by 21 May, once all the high-risk groups and over-50s are fully vaccinated.
Danes will have to show proof of vaccination, proof of earlier infection or a recent negative test to access services such as hairdressers, restaurants and cinemas.
Sweden has been considering similar plans.
What are the challenges?
With the Israeli version, several issues have been reported with the system since it was rolled out.
Foreign nationals cannot get hold of the pass, nor can vaccinated citizens who are not insured with an Israeli healthcare provider. Experts have expressed privacy concerns over the smartphone app, and the government has admitted the police do not have the staff to check if businesses are complying with the new rules.
Within weeks of the World Health Organization confirming that the coronavirus was a global pandemic, dozens of companies were rushing to announce plans to offer digital health certificates or, later, vaccine passports. But many seemed ignorant of the huge regulatory, ethical and technical challenges involved.
For any such certificate or passport to work, it is going to need two things - access to a country's official records of vaccinations and a secure method of identifying an individual and linking them to their health record. And if such a digital certificate is to be accepted by the border force of another country, it will probably have to adhere to common standards set by organisations such as the WHO or the EU.
What about the UK?
In typical UK government fashion, they are doing their utmost to avoid any discussion on the matter. With PM Boris Johnson simply stating they are "deeply thinking about the situation." Which means they are either watching others successes and failures from afar before taking a decision. Or after the whole track and trace app debacle are worried how much confidence we will have in another government app.
It may be a particularly hard sell in the UK as well, due to a long seen opposition to the idea of carrying a national identity card. Leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer has recently stated it being "wrong in principle and not British" when asked about possible pub vaccines passports.
Finding the balance between introducing passports for international and potentially domestic use is going to prove a real challenge for the UK government over the coming months. Debate and consuming headlines will carry on likely for the rest of 2021.
But the question is what do you think about vaccine passports? Are they simply an inevitability, are they a real concern and infringe on your privacy and rights? Are we in the UK behind in our thinking regards the subject and should adopt a more modern view like other countries on the issue?
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