Greatest global health crisis in a century
Now that two approved COVID-19 vaccines are being administered to US citizens, with even more approved globally and in the pipeline, we can finally begin to address the practical implications of how we as a civilization might emerge from over eleven months of strict social isolation.
As the proportion of the US population that’s been immunized stands at near 10% and grows daily, more and more of us may soon be able to safely interact with one another in private and public common spaces.
But this could require the administrators of said common spaces to verify an individual’s COVID vaccination status — in much the same way we’ve needed to verify negative COVID test results as a prerequisite to accessing a variety of spaces since March 2020.
How might we (as a society) create a system that verifiably transmits bona-fide vaccination status, testing results, and the identity of an individual before ingress to a controlled, restricted, or quarantined environment?
This is precisely the sort of challenge that Theorem is organized and poised to address. Like other leaders in our industry, we predict a potential digital vaccine “passport” as portable as the smartphone apps in our pockets will pave the way for international travel and commerce to safely resume.
At the most basic level, we are not looking at complicated data structures. The two key data points required would be a) a unique identifier per individual plus b) that individual’s vaccination status.
Any potential vaccine verification application will face considerable risks and constraints.
However, we also recognize that even the simplest of data systems still inhabits a complex landscape rife with non-technical hurdles.
- The system must earn and keep public trust.
- The system must be resilient to tampering.
- The system must be accessible and valuable to a wide variety of users.
In order to achieve these broader goals,
- The system should be flexible enough to accommodate different risk profiles and scenarios.
- The system should use biometric indicators to validate the identity of an individual.
- The system should prioritize the privacy of the health information of its participants.
How would an actual potential digital vaccine passport overcome these collaborative challenges? What would each end user require of the system?
Late last year, a consortium of tech companies including Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce designed a vaccine status implementation standard based on well-understood, industry-standard health information protocols. Why, then, aren’t we closer to realizing the ambition of a digital vaccine passport?
As ever, it’s complicated. To help illustrate the implementation realities, we can start with the following four hypothetical end user scenarios.
Four distinct pieces of software would need to integrate with one another to meet each end user’s requirements — we can get there, but we must start now.
It’s exciting to see the momentum of some of the biggest tech companies in the world gathering behind the development of a universal vaccine credential and potential passport system. Within such a fragmented system, tech leadership has already managed to establish sound best practices in the medical community that will help chart a clear path for future adaptations and implementations.
As for Theorem: We’re ready to be a key player as health care providers around the world move to create and integrate the solutions that will carry us into our shared social future.