The Biden administration is reportedly working on developing coronavirus vaccine passports that would allow Americans to prove that they have been vaccinated since some businesses have indicated that they will require proof of vaccination for people to enter their businesses.
“The administration’s initiative has been driven largely by arms of the Department of Health and Human Services, including an office devoted to health information technology, said five officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the effort,” The Washington Post reported. “The White House this month took on a bigger role coordinating government agencies involved in the work, led by coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients, with a goal of announcing updates in coming days.”
The report said that a digital version of the vaccine passport would be available through smartphone apps and “could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass.” Developers told the Post that people should also have the option of printing out a vaccine passport. The vaccine passports are expected to face “significant hurdles” surrounding data privacy and making sure that the passports cannot be counterfeited.
“One of the most significant hurdles facing federal officials: the sheer number of passport initiatives underway, with the Biden administration this month identifying at least 17,” the Post added. “Those initiatives — such as a World Health Organization-led global effort and a digital pass devised by IBM that is being tested in New York state — are rapidly moving forward, even as the White House deliberates about how best to track the shots and avoid the perception of a government mandate to be vaccinated.”
An official told the Post that developers are working on ways to include how to use the apps to “adjust for the spread of variants” and monitoring “how booster shots would be tracked.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been pushing for months for a global tracking system using QR codes to monitor people who have been exposed to the coronavirus.
“The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, argues that using smartphone-based verification to access public places would create a two-tiered system that bars people who can’t work, shop or attend school because they don’t have a cell phone or access to testing,” Politico reported. “There also are privacy considerations. Requiring people to store test and vaccination results in digital format could expose them to the kind of data breaches that have proliferated during the pandemic.”
Politico’s report also noted that several legislatures have introduced bills to “prevent discrimination for people with religious objections or health conditions that might prevent them from getting immunized.”
New York is unveiling the nation’s first vaccine passport, dubbed the “Excelsior Pass,” which is a smartphone app that will allow people to either print out a passport or store it in their phones.
“Each Pass will have a secure QR code, which participating businesses and venues can scan using a companion app to verify proof of COVID-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination,” a news release said. “An individual’s data is kept secure and confidential at all times.”