Covid-19 Vaccine “Passports” – How Will We Verify Vaccinations?

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Just this past month, I was eligible for and received both doses of the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine at the Javits Center in New York. To my surprise, the entire process, from the time I stepped into the building to when I walked out, was extremely quick and time-efficient, facilitated by the National Guard. And after getting my vaccine, I received my CDC vaccine card, which I assumed would serve as my proof of vaccination. Considering the importance of getting vaccinated, I felt much more secure about returning to my normal life having received both doses of the vaccine. 

One month after my second vaccination, my assumption that my small, paper CDC vaccination card would serve as my only proof of vaccination held true, begging some questions – Is the only proof of vaccination going to be the CDC vaccination card? What about the possibility of counterfeit? Will digital cards work?

The answers to these questions, however, remain disputed. Unlike global retailers and franchises, which mostly declared that they would not check for a proof of Covid vaccination, federal international travel officers have been requiring an official certification of a negative PCR test. And with the trend toward vaccination, as well as the increase in international travel due to summer and vacations, the question of proof of vaccination has become very real in the travel scene. 

A leading example of an attempt to create proof of vaccinations is digital Covid-19 health certificates. Starting to be developed by companies such as IBM, airline companies, and even the European Union, digital health certificates would take from state, or federal, vaccination records to detail if people have been vaccinated for Covid-19 and other illnesses.

However, this approach has its setbacks. This approach fails to consider the possibilities of digital counterfeit and cybersecurity, which are prevalent in all aspects of digital society. Additionally, this idea neglects the overwhelming global population without digital access to smartphones or devices, rendering this solution improper. 

For those that do not have access to digital vaccination certification, the standard paper proof of vaccination may seem to be the only option. But what about counterfeit in the physical sense? I believe federal governments should issue a Covid-19 vaccine certification check on existing passports, which would relieve international travel concerns, in a way that is similar to the anti-counterfeit technology of federal currency creation. In this solution, people without digital access are not excluded from the benefits of proof of vaccination, and the risk of counterfeit is substantially reduced.