Verified vaccine certificates are a political hot potato — we need secure vaccine certificates this year.
In the US, international travelers who have visited countries with vaccination requirements are familiar with the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP). It’s essentially the twentieth century’s internationally accepted verified vaccine certificate. Also called the Carte Juaune, it enables travelers to prove they are properly vaccinated, as required by many nations for yellow fever and other diseases.
Today, we need verified vaccine certificates for both US leisure and business international travelers. There are significant, politically polarized issues concerning COVID-19 vaccine passports. Some state governments passed laws banning their use. Other states have or intend to create their own. So far, the US federal government has not proceeded further than considering issuing them.
America needs a verified vaccine certificate. Thousands of fake certificates exist.
Adding to the vaccine passport controversy, hundreds of scammers have already issued thousands of fake vaccine certificates to unvaccinated Americans. Websites instruct unvaccinated Americans on how they can make fake certificates. Unfortunately, few safeguards on the vaccine certificate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prevent forgeries.
Vaccine passports weren’t an issue in the US until the COVID pandemic. US parents have been using a de facto vaccine passport since the late 1960s — the childhood vaccine record book. They obtained the booklet from their children’s doctor. It’s proof that schools and childcare centers require to know their children have been vaccinated as required by law. The vaccine and passport requirements were borne out of the childhood disease epidemics. These certificates outline inoculations against major outbreaks of polio, measles, mumps, and chickenpox.
Vaccinations, coupled with their documented proof, no matter what it’s called, save lives in the US and across the globe.
Before 1963, in the US alone, from three to four million, mostly youngsters, contracted measles annually. Of them, more than 45,000 were hospitalized and from 400 to 500 died each year. As vaccines were invented for each, the vaccination record book (vaccine passport) documented each child’s vaccination. It, along with the vaccines themselves, saved countless lives. They continue to save lives every day.
Vaccine passports save lives. It’s why the world has successfully used them since the 1930s for vaccines against cholera, yellow Ffever, and other diseases.
Verified vaccine certificates will be essential for international travel for the foreseeable future.
We need to separate the issues of creating a government-issued, secure, verified vaccine passport for use by Americans who want and need them, from the issues of how they will be used by governments and businesses in the US. Americans need to distinguish between the issues because regardless of how vaccine passports are used in the US, vaccine passports will be necessary for international travel and commerce, no matter what we think of them. For the foreseeable future, COVID-19 vaccine passports will be just as essential to international travel as the national passports we use to prove our identity.
Americans need the federal government to issue vaccine passports to the nation for three major reasons. First, the federal government can create an access system to obtain the necessary data to produce vaccine passports in a timely manner. Second, they have the financial resources to provide the vaccine passports free of any charge for every American. Last and likely most important, the federal government will be international functionality. The US government can directly work with other world governments to ensure US vaccine passports will be accepted across the globe. Businesses and state governments who issue vaccine passports won’t be able to ensure that.
There are two important equity issues concerning the creation and issuance of vaccine passports. They should be offered free of charge so that anyone who needs one can obtain one, regardless of their financial circumstances. In addition to a smartphone-based vaccine passport, a paper-based one should be developed so that those Americans without a smartphone can also obtain a vaccine passport.
Effective vaccine passports must be secure and their data verified.
Vaccine passports must be as secure as possible and the information in them must be verified. Both security and validation are not easily achieved nor are they impossible. That said, Americans should understand that even if our vaccine passport security is the best possible, it will not be foolproof. Highly secure databases get hacked every day. While perfect security isn’t possible, high-level security is possible and essential.
Verification of the data in a vaccine passport will be difficult in the US. There is no single central database where our COVID vaccination data resides, not even at the CDC. Our individual COVID vaccination data resides in state health department databases, at pharmacies, and at other vaccination providers. Whoever would verify our vaccination data for the vaccine passports needs to gain access to multiple vaccine databases across the nation.
I’m currently testing a private company’s vaccine passport to determine if they can verify my vaccination data and how long that will take. They completed my initial review in one day. It ensures the match between my personal identification and vaccine card, plus my vaccine dates and lot numbers, make sense. They look for possible fraud markers, too. We’ll see how long the more detailed verification takes.
Every American should be able to obtain a secure, verifiable vaccine certificate.
In my opinion, every American who wants secure, verifiable proof of their COVID-19 vaccination should be able to obtain it. I call upon the Biden Administration to immediately begin the creation of a COVID-19 vaccination record-keeping system to produce free, secure, verified vaccine certificates and start providing Americans with them by the end of 2021.
After many years working in corporate America as a chemical engineer, executive and eventually CFO of a multinational manufacturer, Ned founded a tech consulting company and later restarted NSL Photography, his photography business. Before entering the corporate world, Ned worked as a Public Health Engineer for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. As a well known corporate, travel and wildlife photographer, Ned travels the world writing about travel and photography, as well as running photography workshops, seminars and photowalks. Visit Ned’s Photography Blog and Galleries.