The coronavirus pandemic overwhelmingly shifted life as we knew it with large venues, crowds, travel, without much thought given to spreading a contagious airborne virus.
Now, after millions of confirmed cases, numerous tragic losses, and two vaccines, tech companies are developing a way for us to track who’s gotten the coronavirus vaccine as we look ahead to 2021.
According to a report by CNN, the Common Trust Network, a joint initiative between Geneva-based nonprofit The Commons Project and World Economic Forum, is in partnership with several airlines and healthcare systems to develop an app for smartphones.
The CommonPass app will allow app users to upload medical information including a COVID-19 test result, and eventually certification of vaccination by a hospital or healthcare provider. The proof of the vaccine would come in the form of QR code that can be scanned without having to reveal other sensitive information or medical data.
“You can be tested every time you cross a border. You cannot be vaccinated every time you cross a border,” The Commons Project chief marketing and communications officer Thomas Crampton told CNN Business. Crampton emphasized the importance of having simplified and easily transferable proof of vaccine or a “digital yellow card,” referring to the paper document currently used as vaccination proof.
IBM has developed an app called Digital Health Pass which features an option for venues and companies to customize the health indicators they require for entry. Options include coronavirus test results, body temperature, and proof of vaccination. The desired credentials would be stored on a mobile wallet a person would use to get into a venue.
Companies still face the challenge of ensuring privacy and the disjointed efforts of contact tracing. Apple and Google had come together to create a notification where users would be notified if they came into contact with someone with COVID-19, but initiative leaders cited “piecemeal implementation choices” and a “lack of federal leadership” as downfalls to getting a unified, and useful system.
With the health credential app, researchers from five continents are coming together to create a set of standards to make the app “interoperable in the same way that email is interoperable,” Brian Behlendorf explained. Behlendorf is the executive director of the Linux Foundation which is working with the researchers on coordinating the universal standards.
For those without a smartphone, companies are brainstorming ideas of using a smart card which can easily store information and be presented in a variety of settings.
Apps or passes will also have to provide details such as which vaccine a person received, since there’s varying effectiveness among the vaccines rolled out by different countries.
Additionally, more research is also needed to understand if vaccinated individuals can transmit the virus. Still, there’s a sense that digital vaccination records will be rolled out for use as early as the first half of 2021.
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