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Are Vaccine Passports the Route To a Faster Postpandemic Recovery?


Travelers are used to having their tickets scanned before they board an airplane. In the near future, flight attendants may also ask to scan your vaccine passport, a digital record of whether you’ve been inoculated against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Vaccine passports are gaining traction as a way to facilitate the return of individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 to restricted spaces, such as public transportation, work locations and even countries.

Organizations are forging ahead with digital solutions to reopen economies and travel routes — but without a global standard.

Given that it’s likely to take more than a year before vaccine distribution and administration reaches most of the world population, passports are a critical tool for increasing economic activity without risking a new wave of infection.

The World Health Organization first established vaccine certification standards for yellow fever in 1933, and has issued paper medical passports in some form ever since. Now, organizations are forging ahead with digital solutions to reopen economies and travel routes — but without a global standard to guide them.

Key players in delivering and enabling vaccine passports

January saw the launch of the Vaccine Credential Initiative, a partnership between technology and health organizations, including Microsoft, Cerner, Epic, Salesforce and the Mayo Clinic. The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has launched a digital health working group tasked with developing standards for a digital vaccine certificate.

These high-profile efforts increase the potential that vaccine passports will become a reality, even as important questions remain about the standards that will apply to digital vaccine passports, including the technology vaccine passports will use, the source and verification of data and definitions of immunity among them.

Organizations don’t have to wait for answers, however, to begin considering different scenarios involving passports, and the role they will play in creating and promoting them.

Different roles in vaccine passport strategy

The following groups all have a stake in understanding the role digital vaccine passports will play and what they need to do to ensure they achieve widespread adoption when they do emerge:

  • Business executives looking to understand how and under what circumstances they can restart travel and commerce
  • Public sector leaders looking to understand or to be involved in policy and guidance, and in key initiatives
  • Technology solution providers/vendors looking to develop and implement services or expand partnerships
  • Consultants or other service providers supporting this market
  • Investors looking to support companies involved in these initiatives



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