by Sara Nguyen
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What Is a Vaccine Passport?
by Sara Nguyen
It’s not necessarily a new concept to prove vaccination in certain circumstances. Some countries require travelers to provide proof of vaccination against yellow fever or other diseases before entering their country. Many schools also require students to be fully vaccinated before enrolling.
These days the concept of a vaccine passport is gaining popularity and criticism. So what is a vaccine passport, and does it actually help people get back to their pre-COVID lives?
What is a vaccine passport?
A vaccine passport is a document that you present to a gatekeeper to prove you have received the COVID-19 vaccine. This isn’t the same document that you received after getting your vaccine doses known as the COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card.
A person would present their vaccine passport to resume activities that are currently restricted to the general public. Some of these activities might include domestic traveling, attending large gatherings, or using indoor facilities like a gym.
Eventually, a COVID-19 vaccine passport could be issued with the same international standards as other vaccine passports and could be presented during travel. But an internationally recognized COVID-19 vaccine passport is a long way away.
How would it work?
The general concept for a vaccine passport is that it would be part of a mobile app that would contain your vaccine information and the results from your latest COVID-19 test.
There are currently multiple companies developing apps to use as a vaccine passport. Some of these companies include:
- International Air Transport Association (IATA): The IATA represents over 290 airlines worldwide. The app is called Travel Pass, which would allow people to upload their vaccination documents and also use biometric information (like facial recognition) to protect their data.
- IBM: The company is developing an app called Digital Health Pass using blockchain technology. It could be used to verify health credentials like vaccine status and test results.
- The World Economic Forum and the Commons Project Foundation: The non-profit organizations have already signed on United Airlines and JetBlue as partners for their app called CommonPass. The app would have a scannable QR code containing health information.
Do vaccine passports violate HIPAA?
While a vaccine passport is considered protected health information (PHI), only healthcare providers need to follow HIPAA guidelines to protect patient data. Airlines or other providers don’t necessarily need to follow the same security guidelines when they access vaccine passport data.
However, many state and federal laws protect against privacy and identity theft. Companies that have access to vaccine passport data will still need to protect it and notify you of any breach.
What are the benefits of a vaccine passport?
Some people favor the introduction of a vaccine passport since it provides a pathway to return to life as it was before the pandemic. It would allow economies to open and operate in their fullest capacity, which could relieve some pandemic-stricken industries like the travel sector.
A vaccine passport could also encourage people to get vaccinated and could better protect the general public.
What are the arguments against a vaccine passport?
Some critics raise concerns about a vaccine passport creating inequality. If a digital app is required, many people don’t own smartphones. But a paper vaccine passport may increase the risk of fraud. Some people choose to not take the vaccine for religious or cultural reasons, and they could also be discriminated against for not having a vaccine passport.
There are also concerns about security and privacy. A digital app filled with a user’s health information could easily be the target of a cyberattack. App developers will need to ensure that sensitive information is protected against unauthorized users.
When will vaccine passports start?
It’s hard to say when a universal vaccine passport will be accepted worldwide. Although some places have already started implementing their own version of a vaccine passport. New York state has recently announced the Excelsior Pass to gain access to indoor venues and businesses.
Health data security remains a top priority during the pandemic
Any vaccine passport will require careful evaluation to ensure that healthcare disparity doesn’t increase because of it. However, it’s not an impossible dream for a vaccine passport to work.
In the meantime, healthcare providers should continue to work to ensure that patient data is protected. Indeed, there continues to be a growing number of coronavirus-themed cyberattacks.
One of the most vulnerable parts of network security is email communications. Sending HIPAA compliant email is critical to protecting patient data.
Paubox Email Suite is the solution to securing your email and becoming HIPAA compliant. It integrates with your current email provider, including Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, and allows you to send emails directly to a patient’s inbox with no patient portal necessary.