The barriers to vaccine passports

Vaccine passports could become available soon to help people resume their lives — but they face numerous scientific, social and political barriers to being accepted.

The big picture: Reliable and accessible proof of vaccine-induced protection from the novel coronavirus could speed international travel and economic reopening, but obstacles to its wide-scale adoption are so great it may never fully arrive.

Driving the news: The secure digital identity app CLEAR and CommonPass, a health app that lets users access vaccination records and COVID-19 test results, will be working together to offer a vaccine passport service, my Axios colleague Erica Pandey reports.

  • The news comes as a growing number of countries and companiesare talking up plans to introduce similar vaccine passports that could help the protected return to normal life and travel as soon as possible.

Yes, but: There are numerous health, ethical and operational questions that need to be resolved before vaccine passports could become an effective part of daily life.

Health: Medical experts still don’t fully know how effective vaccinations — or exposure to the virus — are at preventing onward transmission of COVID-19.

  • Until it’s clear that vaccination effectively prevents transmission, there’s a limit to how useful any vaccine passport can be for public health — especially if emerging variants render some vaccines less protective.
  • “The utility of a vaccine passport is only as good as the evidence of how long the immunity lasts,” David Salisbury, an associate fellow at think tank Chatham House, told Bloomberg.

Ethical: The most obvious use case for vaccine passports is for international travel, which has been crippled by onerous quarantine restrictions. But such a system risks locking out billions of people who are unable or unwilling to get the vaccine.

  • The EU has been discussingthe creation of a vaccine passport, with tourism-dependent countries like Greece leading the charge. But Germany and France — where the vaccine rollout has been low and hesitancy is high — have reservations, and any such system looks to be months away.
  • And if vaccine passports are used not just for international travel but to allow people to work and engage in social life domestically, they could create cripplingly unequal barriers that might paradoxically reinforce vaccine hesitancy.

Operational: Passports for international travel are regulated by governments and have decades of history behind them, but there’s no such unified system for vaccine passports, which are being introduced by governments and businesses with different standards, making them a target for fraud.

  • The U.S. in particular has a decentralized medical system that can make it difficult for people to easily access their health care records, especially if they lack digital literacy.
  • «We will have a lot of bad actors where they pretend to offer a service that will provide some sort of vaccination passport, but it’s really a phishing campaign,» says Jane Lee, a trust and safety architect at the cybersecurity company Sift.

Be smart: None of these obstacles are insurmountable on their own. But as we saw with the failures of digital contact tracing, just because a technological solution exists doesn’t mean it will be effective or adopted by the public.

  • «There’s a huge motivation to make this work socially,» says Kevin Trilli, chief product officer at Onfido, an identification verification company. «But there’s a lot of governmental issues that are going to really make the system difficult to implement.»

The bottom line: Some form of vaccine visas will likely be introduced for international travel, but it seems unlikely they’ll become a passport to resuming normal life.

Πηγή: axios.com

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