What Could a “Vaccine Passport” Potentially Look Like?

Will we be required to display our vaccination status on our phones?

vaccine paperwork
Will we be required to show proof of vaccination to get on a plane next year?
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty

As the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are rolled out to members of high-risk groups worldwide, many people have begun to wonder what lies ahead once it becomes available to the general public. There’s been talk of a “vaccine passport” or some form of certification to prove you’ve been vaccinated and gain entry onto flights, into restaurants, etc. But what exactly will that look like?

MIT Technology Review delved into the issue in a recent article, noting how airlines and other businesses are developing “health pass” apps in which users ask labs and health systems to send their results directly to the app on their phone so that they can display it easily.

But are these businesses even allowed to require you to get vaccinated before you enter? As the publication notes, “There’s nothing revolutionary about needing to prove you’ve had a vaccine. Some countries require evidence of a yellow fever shot before you can clear customs, and many schools will not let you enroll your children in school unless they’re up to date on mandatory immunizations.” And governments collecting said vaccination records? That’s commonplace, too.

But tracking everyone’s vaccination records on an app may be easier said than done, thanks to logistical concerns here in the United States.

“Universal vaccine credentials may be close to impossible in the US, where patient data is fragmented across tens of thousands of health-care businesses,” MIT Technology Review writes. “Forget digital interoperability standards — a lot of American doctors still rely on fax machines to send records. While most vaccinations are captured in state or local registries, using those databases for digital verification may face both legal and technological barriers.”

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