New applications enable COVID-19 vaccine passports for travel

Now that coronavirus vaccines are starting to roll out in the US and abroad, many people may be dreaming of the day when they can travel again, go shopping and go to the movies. But to be able to do these activities, you may eventually need something in addition to the vaccine: a passport vaccination application.

Various companies and technology groups have begun developing smartphone applications or systems for individuals to upload details of their COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital referents that can be displayed to concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices or even countries. enter. .

The Common Trust Network, an initiative of the nonprofit The Commons Project and the World Economic Forum, has worked with several airlines in Geneva, including Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, as well as hundreds of healthcare systems. . across the United States and the government of Aruba.

The CommonPass app created by the group allows users to upload medical data, such as a COVID-19 test result, or ultimately proof of vaccination by a hospital or medical professional, and a health certificate or in the form of a QR code that can be shown to authorities without disclosing sensitive information. For your trip, the requirements for the health care fit at the departure and arrival points are listed based on your itinerary.

“You can be tested every time you cross a border. You can not be vaccinated every time you cross a border,” Thomas Crampton, head of marketing and communications at The Commons Project, told CNN Business . He stresses the need for a simple and easily transferable set of credentials, or a ‘digital yellow card’, with reference to the paper document usually issued as proof of vaccination.

RELATED: US looks closely at variant of coronavirus that sets off alarms in UK, says Fauci

Large technology companies are also operating. IBM has developed its own app, called Digital Health Pass, which allows businesses and locales to customize indicators they need for access, including coronavirus tests, temperature checks, and vaccination records. Evidence corresponding to the indicators is then stored in a mobile wallet.

In an effort to address one challenge around returning to normalcy after vaccine distribution, developers may now have to face other challenges, ranging from privacy issues to the divergent efficacy of different vaccines. But perhaps the most urgent challenge is to avoid the disconnected implementation and mixed success of tech’s previous attempt to address the public health crisis: contact detection apps.

Early in the pandemic, Apple and Google put aside their smartphone rivalry to develop a Bluetooth-based system to notify users if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19. Many countries and state governments around the world have also developed and used their own applications.

“I think where the exposure notice had some challenges were more the pieces of implementation choices, the lack of federal leadership … where each state had to go it alone and so each state had to invent it independently,” Jenny Wanger said leading the initiatives for exposure notice for Linux Foundation Public Health, a technology-focused organization that helps public health authorities around the world combat COVID-19.

To encourage better coordination this time around, The Linux Foundation has partnered with the COVID-19 Credentials Initiative, a group of more than 300 people representing dozens of organizations across five continents and also working with IBM and CommonPass to create a set of universal standards to help develop. for vaccination programs for vaccines.

‘If we’re successful, you can say: I have a vaccination certificate on my phone that I got when I was vaccinated in one country, with a whole range of my own health management practices … that I used to get in a ”to board a plane to a completely different country and then I offered a vaccination certificate in that new country so that I could go to the concert that took place indoors, and attendance was limited to those who showed that they had the vaccine,” he said. Brian Behlendorf, executive director of Linux Foundation, said.

“It needs to be interoperable in the same way that email is interoperable, just as the web is interoperable,” he said. “Right now we’re in a situation where there are moving parts that bring us closer to it, but I think there’s a sincere commitment from everyone in the industry.”

The majority of the world population that still does not use or have access to smartphones is to secure the bulk of the vaccine passports. A few companies in the COVID-19 Credentials Initiative are also developing a smart card that strikes a middle ground between traditional paper vaccination certificates and an online version that is easier to store and reproduce.

‘For us it is [about] how the digital credential can be stored, not only via smartphones but also in other ways for people who do not have access to stable internet and also do not have smartphones, “said co-leader Lucy Yang of the COVID-19 Credentials Initiative. ‘We’re researching it, and there are companies doing a lot of promising work.

Once they set up a vaccine passport, they need to make sure that people are comfortable using it. This means that you face the concern of handling private medical information.

CommonPass, IBM and the Linux Foundation have highlighted privacy as the most important in their initiatives. IBM says it enables users to control and allow the use of their health data and enables them to choose the level of detail they want to provide to authorities.

“Trust and transparency remain paramount in the development of a platform such as a digital health passport, or any solution that handles sensitive personal information,” the company said in a blog post. “Prioritizing privacy is a top priority for managing and analyzing data following these complex times.”

With vaccines being manufactured by different companies in different countries in different stages of development, there are many variables that passport makers need to take into account.

“An entry point – whether it’s a border, whether it’s a place – would want to know, did you get the Pfizer vaccine, did you get the Russian vaccine, did you get the Chinese vaccine, so they ‘ a decision can be made “accordingly,” Crampton said. and Modern are manufactured, each having an efficiency of about 95%.

It is also unclear how effective the vaccines are in stopping the transmission of the virus, says Dr. Julie Parsonnet, a specialist in infectious diseases at Stanford University. While a vaccination passport app will show you the chance, it may not be a guarantee that you will attend an event safely or on the run.

“We still do not know if vaccinated people can transmit infection or not,” she told CNN Business. “Until that is clear, we will not know if ‘passports’ will be effective.”

However, Behlendorf still anticipates that the roll-out and acceptance of vaccine passports will take place fairly quickly once everything falls into place and expects a variety of programs that can work together within the first half of 2021 to be ‘widely available’.

“Rest assured, the nerds are on it,” he said.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia company. All rights reserved.