What risks do vaccine passports pose? 2 hospital CIOs weigh in

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COVID-19 vaccine passports raise concerns about data privacy, fraud, personal choice and equity, according to the CIOs of Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Bronson Healthcare and Seattle Children's.

Several private companies are developing COVID-19 vaccine passports, machine-readable digital passes that store individuals' COVID-19 vaccination records and test results. But, several governors have banned or voiced their opposition to such passports in recent weeks.

COVID-19 passports are designed to standardize the process of proving one's immunization status. Ash Goel, MD, senior vice president and CIO of Bronson Healthcare, said "the variability of paper processes and gaps in exchange standards" can lead to a lack of efficiency and transparency." 

Dr. Goel, however, did clarify he does not think mandating such passports is the way to go. "It has to be coupled with an individual's personal choice and control," he said.

Zafar Chaudry, MD, senior vice president and CIO at Seattle Children's, said he thought COVID-19 passports are a good idea in principle, noting they're "certainly better than carrying a piece of paper." He also pointed out that the passes are already being used at a national level in Israel, and other countries, such as the U.K., are considering them. 

While noting that COVID-19 passports could facilitate travel, events and the safe opening of the economy, Dr. Chaudry said the passes pose certain risks. For example, he said the passports could perpetuate the dangerous assumption that vaccinated individuals don’t spread COVID-19.

Dr. Chaudry also explained how the passes discriminate against poor and nonwhite Americans because they could give vaccinated people the ability to do things that unvaccinated people can't. He also noted his concerns regarding privacy issues and the potential of fraud, as "any technology can be hacked or replicated."


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