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Coronavirus vaccine passports aren’t available yet, but could be an investment for the future

Global scientists have reiterated the importance of herd immunity before the economy can fully reopen, but a number of start-ups and major tech companies are looking to speed up the return to normalcy.

Microsoft, Apple and Google have shown interest in developing vaccine passports or certificates to usher in safer travel.

“It’s pretty clear that vaccination certificates are moving forward,” said the executive director of ID2020 Dakota Gruener. “Given that, how do we ensure that that investment is made in the greatest possible way?”

As one of the experts on a World Health Organization-sponsored working group, Gruener and others are hoping to help establish global standards for digital vaccination certificates.

Still, some public health officials are wary of vaccine passports as a tool to prove immunity to the coronavirus. For one, insufficient data on the efficacy and safety of the vaccines make them risky. There are also a number of equity concerns: Black, Latino and Indigenous populations have been particularly hard hit by the virus and can be especially skeptical of the vaccine. And there’s far from widespread, equitable access to the vaccines at the moment.

“I think it’s premature to be talking about how we get people these immunizations certificates,”  said L.J Tan, the chief strategy officer at Immunization Action Coalition. “Our focus should be on getting people vaccinated. Once we get enough people vaccinated then we can leverage that vaccinated pool for analysis.”

Onfido is one of the many start-ups hoping to innovate in this area. Chief Product Officer Kevin Trilli said that though universal use of vaccine certificates are nearly impossible, they can be effective for certain companies or industries. Either way, he says they are a smart investment in the future.

“If we miss the window a little bit and don’t make money off it or whatever, we’ve all realized that this has got to be in place,” said Trilli.

Watch the video to learn more about how digital vaccine passports are being developed with safety in mind.