4 obstacles facing digital COVID-19 vaccine passports

The U.S. government is working to create secure ways for vaccinated Americans to prove their inoculation status and begin their return to normalcy. However, questions remain about how these digital vaccine credentials will be developed, made accessible and used. 

Below are four obstacles digital COVID-19 vaccine passports face:

  1. Privacy. Digital COVID-19 vaccine passports store users' personal information in smartphone applications, which some Americans believe pose data privacy risks. Jeff Zients, one of President Joe Biden's pandemic advisors, said vaccine passports will be "designed from the start to protect people’s privacy" during a March 12 briefing.

  2. Counterfeits. Developers of vaccine passports are working on ways to make them counterfeit-proof, as fake COVID-19 passports are already being sold online by anonymous traders, according to BBC.

  3. Choice. Once digital COVID-19 vaccine passports become more widely used, it is unclear which events and activities will require them. Ethics and policy experts are encouraging the U.S. to stress that it is Americans' choice whether to get vaccinated and/or download a vaccine passport, according to The Washington Post. "If it became a government mandate, it would go down a dark road very quickly,” Dr. Brian Castrucci, CEO of the public health nonprofit Beaumont Foundation, told the Post. "It becomes a credential. It becomes a 'needing your papers,' if you will. That could be dangerous — and it could turn off people."

  4. The number of COVID-19 vaccine passport projects underway. In March, the White House had identified and was trying to corral at least 17 vaccine passport initiatives, according to slides obtained by The Washington Post. Such efforts include an initiative led by the World Health Organization and one from IBM, which New York launched March 26 for sporting events and other large gatherings.

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