Here is what a global Covid-19 vaccine passport could look like – and how it would be used

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a guidance document on introducing a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate – known as a Digital Documentation of Covid-19 Certificates: Vaccination Status (DDCC:VS).

A digital vaccination certificate – which documents a person’s current vaccination status to protect against Covid-19 – can be used for continuity of care or as proof of vaccination for purposes other than healthcare, the health body said.

“A vaccination certificate can be purely digital – stored in a smartphone application or on a cloud-based server – and replace the need for a paper card, or it can be a digital representation of the traditional paper-based record,” the WHO said.

However, it cautioned that a digital certificate should never require individuals to have a smartphone or computer.

“The link between the paper record and the digital record can be established using a one-dimensional (1D) or two-dimensional (2D) barcode, for example, printed on or affixed to the paper vaccination card.”

What it can be used for 

The WHO said that the key benefit of this document is ‘continuity of care’ – a vaccination record that shows individuals and caregivers which vaccinations an individual has received as part of that individual’s medical history.

Vaccination records can also provide proof of vaccination status for purposes not related to healthcare, it said.

This includes everything from universities to international travel and workplaces – which could all require some form of proof of vaccination going forward.

Minimum requirements 

The WHO said that digital vaccination certificates should meet the public health needs of each state and the needs of individuals around the world.

“They should never create inequity due to lack of access to specific software or technologies.

“The recommendations for the implementation of DDCC:VS must therefore apply to the widest range of use cases, catering to many different levels of digital maturity between implementing countries.”

To accommodate this, the WHO developed a series of minimum requirements to allow the greatest possible flexibility for states and to build a solution that is fit for purpose in the context of their overall health information systems:

  • A cost to benefits analysis – The potential benefits, risks and costs of implementing a DDCC:VS solution should be assessed before introducing the new system and its associated infrastructure. This includes an impact assessment of the ethical and privacy implications and potential risks that may arise with implementing a DDCC:VS.
  • National-level regulations – States should establish appropriate policies for appropriate use, data protection and governance of the DDCC:VS to reduce the potential harms while achieving the public health benefits involved in deploying such a solution.
  • A digital certificate – A digitally signed electronic version of the data about a vaccination event, called a DDCC:VS, must exist. As a minimum, both the required data elements in the core data set and the metadata should be recorded.
  • Proof of vaccination – An individual who has received a vaccination should have access to proof of this – either as a traditional paper card or a version of the electronic DDCC:VS.
  • Paper and digital –  Where a paper vaccination card is used, it should be associated with a health certificate identifier (HCID). A DDCC:VS should be associated, as a digital representation, with the paper vaccination card via the HCID. Multiple forms of digital representations of the DDCC:VS may be associated with the paper vaccination card via the HCID.
  • The identifier should be clear – The HCID should appear on any paper card in both a human-readable and a machine-readable format (i.e. alphanumeric characters that are printed, as well as rendered as a 1D or 2D barcode.
  • Registry service – A DDCC:VS Registry Service should exist. It will be responsible for storing an index that associates an HCID with data about the DDCC:VS.

Read: A vaccine passport to buy booze in South Africa?

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Here is what a global Covid-19 vaccine passport could look like – and how it would be used