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Vaccine Passports

7 days ago No comments

Vaccine Passports have leapt into focus over the last few weeks and there are various debates about their use in a modern, democratic society. As a specialist business operating within the field of medical information, we thought that it was time we tried to summarise the various issues and let you make up your own mind.

There are a number of areas to consider including

 

  • Foreign travel
  • Access to venues (including sporting events)
  • Economic argument
  • Security of information; and
  • Public choice
  • Longevity

 

Foreign Travel

 

We all want to be able to jump on a plane and jet off to warmer climes. In a post pandemic world how is this going to be achieved, particularly when it will need world cooperation to have any form of coherent strategy. On the face of it any scheme is going to be doomed to failure but that has not stopped a few countries implementing their own schemes. Israel has introduced its own Green Pass for those who have been vaccinated and Denmark has announced plans for a digital passport. The European Commission has also published proposals to facilitate travel around the EU countries.

 

Boris Johnson has also floated the idea of a vaccine passport but has been short on detail and its actual use. Not only would the passport include vaccination information but also immunity, exemption and Covid test results within the last 7 days. This is certainly a wider brief than those being proposed in other countries.

 

A good question is how it will work. Someone with an Israel vaccine passport can board a plane in Tel Aviv and head to Heathrow. But will the passport at Heathrow be valid when returning to Tel Aviv? And what happens if their next onward trip is to New York? With no consensus the use of a vaccine passport for international travel is fraught with problems.

 

Others have asked what the “passport” will look like. Clearly a mobile phone app could do the trick but with only 53% of the over 65s owning a smart phone in the UK then there is a significant group will not be able to travel. An app may be convenient for many but the UK government has had little success with developing apps during the pandemic so there may be little chance of this working effectively and across borders.

 

Clearly, if a vaccine passport were introduced tomorrow, those in the over 40 age bracket who have had a vaccine jab, would be eligible to travel. However, this presents the ethical argument that younger people would be discriminated against.

 

Access to venues

 

Sporting venues around the UK have suffered greatly over the last 12 months. The same goes for the theatres, cinemas, pubs and clubs where life has been put on hold. It is tempting to think that a vaccine passport could provide a simple way to ensure that visitors have a reduced risk of contracting the coronavirus as everyone else attending has the passport. But again, there are problems on the horizon. As the vaccination programme is currently targeting the over 40s how will those under 40 be able to visit their local club or pub. There are also problems regarding enforcement. Will it be the responsibility of the venue owners to enforce admission and how does this impact on the civil liberties of those who have chosen NOT to be vaccinated?

 

 

Economic arguments

 

Getting the country back on track is vital in developing the economy out of the mire. The issues surrounding venues supports the argument that the sooner we can get out to the pub, the quicker those who have been furloughed for most of the last year can start earning a wage again. Getting businesses to stand on their own two feet will be critical to reviving the economy.

 

Already there are issues involving some businesses insisting that only those who have had a jab can return to work. In addition, applicants for new jobs are also being asked about their vaccination status. Is such treatment considered to a be discriminatory in respect of age or are businesses operating a safe and healthy environment for those working for their organisations?

 

Getting everyone vaccinated is vitally important to eradicating this horrible virus. Although we, as a business, strongly believe in the vaccination program and urge everyone to get the jab, we are also conscious of the matter of choice and the freedom to choose. Balancing those freedoms against the cost of disenfranchisement (through employment or travel) is something we will deal with below. But the sooner we have reached some form of herd immunity through vaccination, the sooner restrictions governing employment and returning to a “normal” life can begin.

 

 

Security of information

 

The original track and trace app developed by the UK government was not an overwhelming success. One of the main reasons for the public’s reticence for using any form of app developed by the government was over civil rights to privacy. Not only are there concerns about how such data is to be used by the government, the fact that the big technology firms such as Google and Apple will have the potential to access this medical information is worrying for many. In Canada only 4% had downloaded their national track and trace app. Of those that downloaded it only 2% of those with Covid had logged it withing the app.

 

In the UK support for vaccine passports is stronger in the older age groups with around 60% of the 55 to 64 year olds in favour. This still leaves a significant proportion of the UK worried about the use or effectiveness of such a policy. One of the main reasons for the public’s reluctance to embrace the scheme is going to be data security and privacy. It’s never helpful when a government “mandates” a form of identification!

 

 

Public choice

 

When dealing with the aspects of security it is only a short hop and a skip to start talking about choice. In a democratic society we should have a choice over many aspects of our lives but also to take responsibility for our actions. If we choose not to have a vaccine passport, we must also understand the consequences of this action. Similarly choosing not to be vaccinated may have further consequences regarding how I can interact with the rest of society.

 

Any government is going to be in a right pickle trying to balance the needs for public health against the economic recovery and civil rights of the public. There is no one simple solution when trying to nudge everyone in the same direction.

 

Longevity

 

The final footnote to our review of the current vaccine passport debate involves longevity and “future proofing”. The coronavirus has had the biggest economic effect on the UK since the Second World War. Some analysts predict that it could take 10 years for the UK to recover from the cost of the pandemic.

 

Although we have all learned many lessons from this outbreak, what we should be looking at is how we are planning for the next one. In the West we have been lucky. The SARS outbreak in 2002/04 did not reach the western economies due in part to a quick response from the World Health Organisation and the fact that the level of contagion (the ability to transfer from one person to the next) was harder. However, the death rates for SARS are much more terrifying than the Covid-19 outbreak. Imagine what would happen with a contagion as lethal as SARS and a transfer infection like Covid-19?

 

Let us not add too much doom and gloom to the issue. Lessons have certainly been learned by the public and governments alike. The vaccine passport being proposed in the UK and elsewhere around the world is a knee jerk reaction to a problem that has not been well thought through. We do need a solution that works today as well as tomorrow and can be quickly adapted for any new challenge.

 

A vaccine passport based on a mobile phone app will immediately have its limitations. Significant elements of the population will not be able to use it as they do not own a smart phone and others will not use it for privacy related reasons. Even those who do own a smart phone will know the problems in updating the apps on an ageing phone. So even a 3 year-old phone will have apps that do not work following several software updates.

 

Frankly, in our opinion, a mobile app is not a short or long-term solution.

 

Why Tap2Tag?

 

After reviewing the vaccine passport arguments, we find it bemusing that no-one from the UK or other governments has been in touch, despite us trying to contact them! The Tap2Tag medical alert solution does answer all of the issues involving the vaccine passport.

 

Firstly, we can integrate our medical alert system with any primary care record in the world, including your GP data. This means that details of your vaccinations and test results can be displayed using our revolutionary tap/scan technology.

Secondly, you do not need an app to use it. Just a phone with a web browser.

Thirdly, the owner of the data is in complete control. They determine who can see what information and when.

 

Seven years after launching Tap2Tag we still have the most secure, effective and inexpensive medical alert system in the world. We have the ability to apply this system into a fully functional vaccine passport within weeks.