What is a ‘vaccine passport’ and will you need one the next time you travel?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Gayle Markovitz, Editor, World Economic Forum


  • A “vaccine passport” or “e-vaccination certification of compliance for border crossing regulations” could be required to enable seamless border-crossing.
  • Any framework that comes into place will need to be harmonized, when it comes to standards and use cases, by a normative body – such as the WHO – to ensure that its use is ethical and fair.
  • Two sessions at The Davos Agenda address “Vaccinating the World” on 26 January and 29 January.

For some countries, access to vaccines are increasingly a reality, and millions of vaccines have been purchased with the hope that in time the world’s populations could become COVID-19 immune.

The expectation is that with a vaccine, some aspects of life will return to normal – especially when it comes to travel – which has been particularly hard-hit. This is where a “vaccine passport” or “e-vaccination certification of compliance for border crossing regulations” to enable seamless border-crossing and the harmonization of varying national laws might become a required travel document.

There are important questions to be asked, however, around whether vaccinations prevent transmission, the difference between evidence of inoculation and evidence of immunity, and the rights of those people who may be unable to have the vaccine for health or other reasons.

With this in mind, the World Health Organization (WHO) is looking closely into the use of technology in the COVID-19 response, and how it can work with member states toward an e-vaccination certificate. Importantly, the framework will need to be harmonized, when it comes to standards and the use cases for the certificate, by a normative body like the WHO to ensure that it upholds ethical and equitable principles.

There are also separate initiatives among the private sector, such as the Vaccine Credentials Initiative, which are feeding into this work by offering authentication tools and solutions.

Here, Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare at the World Economic Forum, explains why the WHO’s framework must be the global standard and what are the use cases for sharing data around diagnostics and vaccines.

Is the idea of a vaccine passport entirely new?

The concept of a passport to allow for cross border travel is something that we’ve been working on with the Common Trust Network for many months. The focus has been first on diagnostics. That’s where we worked with an organization called “The Commons Project” to develop the “Common Trust Framework”. This is a set of registries of trusted data sources, a registry of labs accredited to run tests and a registry of up-to-date border crossing regulations.

The set of registries can be used to generate certificates of compliance to prevailing border-crossing regulations as defined by governments. There are different tools to generate the certificates, and the diversity of their authentication solutions and the way they protect data privacy is quite remarkable.

We at the Forum have no preference when it comes to who is running the certification algorithm, we simply want to promote a unique set of registries to avoid unnecessary replication efforts. This is where we support the Common Trust Framework.

For instance, the Common Pass is one authentication solution – but there are others, for example developed by Abbott, AOK, SICPA (Certus), IBM and others.

How does the system work and how could it be applied to vaccines?

The Common Trust Network, supported by the Forum, is combining the set of registries that are going to enrol all participating labs. Separately from that, it provides an up-to-date database of all prevailing border entry rules (which fluctuate and differ from country to country).

Combining these two datasets provides a QR code that border entry authorities can trust. It doesn’t reveal any personal health data – it tells you about compliance of results versus border entry requirements for a particular country. So, if your border control rules say that you need to take a test of a certain nature within 72 hours prior to arrival, the tool will confirm whether the traveller has taken that corresponding test in a trusted laboratory, and the test was indeed performed less than three days prior to landing.

The purpose is to create a common good that many authentication providers can use and to provide anyone, in a very agnostic fashion, with access to those registries.

What is the WHO’s role?

There is currently an effort at the WHO to create standards that would process data on the types of vaccinations, how these are channelled into health and healthcare systems registries, the use cases – beyond the management of vaccination campaigns – include border control but also possibly in the future access to stadia or large events. By establishing in a truly ethical fashion harmonized standards, we can avoid a scenario whereby you create two classes of citizens – those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

So rather than building a set of rules that would be left to the interpretation of member states or private-sector operators like cruises, airlines or conveners of gatherings, we support the WHO’s effort to create a standard for member states for requesting vaccinations and how it would permit the various kinds of use cases.

It is important that we rely on the normative body (the WHO) to create the vaccine credential requirements. The Forum is involved in the WHO taskforce to reflect on those standards and think about how they would be used. The WHO’s goal is to deploy standards and recommendations by mid-March 2021, and the hope is that they will be more harmonized between member states than they have been to date in the field of diagnostics.

What about the private sector and separate initiatives?

When registry frameworks are being developed for authentication tools providers, they should at a minimum feed as experiments into the standardization efforts being driven by WHO, knowing that the final guidance from the only normative body with an official UN mandate may in turn force those providers to revise their own frameworks. We certainly support this type of interaction, as public- and private-sector collaboration is key to overcoming the global challenge posed by COVID-19.

What more needs to be done to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines?

As the WHO has warned, vaccine nationalism – or a hoarding and “me-first” approach to vaccine deployment – risks leaving “the world’s poorest and most vulnerable at risk.” https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1351244318498054148&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.weforum.org%2Fagenda%2F2021%2F01%2Fwhat-is-a-vaccine-passport-and-will-you-need-one-the-next-time-you-travel%2F&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

COVAX, supported by the World Economic Forum, is coordinated by the World Health Organization in partnership with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; CEPI, the Centre for Epidemics Preparedness Innovations and others. So far, 190 economies have signed up.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) is another partnership, with universal access and equity at its core, that has been successfully promoting global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. The World Economic Forum is a member of the ACT-Accelerator’s Facilitation Council (governing body).

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

In the future of work it’s jobs, not people, that will become redundant

‘Right to disconnect’ should be an EU-wide fundamental right, MEPs say

The refugee crisis brings to light EU’s most horrible flaws and nightmares

Myanmar Government side-lining democratic reform, resorting to military era repression: UN expert

Around 52 million in Near East, North Africa, suffering chronic undernourishment, new UN food agency report reveals

Missile strike kills at least 12 civilians, including children, in Syria’s Idlib: UN humanitarians

INTERVIEW: ‘Defend the people, not the States’, says outgoing UN human rights chief

Why law enforcement and businesses need to join forces to fight global cybercrime

Reasons to hope and reasons to keep perspective on a vaccine

UK’s Cameron takes the field to speed up TTIP talks. Will “rocket boosters” work?

Five cities short-listed to become the European Youth Capital 2017

Fostering global citizenship in medicine

250+ senior claims leaders under one roof, exchanging transformation strategy

Over 80 per cent of schools in anglophone Cameroon shut down, as conflict worsens

Draghi: A bridge from Brussels to Berlin

Sudan: New political transition, bolstered by peacebuilding, could bring long-term stability to Darfur, Security Council told

State aid: Commission approves €24.7 million of Italian support to compensate Alitalia for further damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

European Development Days 2013

What lies ahead for the Korean Peninsula?

“France will be there, it will always be there!”, French President Hollande says in a rather disorganised speech; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

Seaweed, enzymes and compostable cups: Can ‘Big Food’ take on plastic and win?

UK’s May stresses global cooperation at UN General Assembly

Sustainable finance: Commission publishes guidelines to improve how firms report climate-related information and welcomes three new important reports on climate finance by leading experts

Why is black plastic packaging so hard to recycle?

Gender-Based Violence and HIV/SRHR – The commonly ignored linkages we need to open our eyes for

Strengthening the rule of law through increased awareness, an annual monitoring cycle and more effective enforcement

Venezuela: MEPs call for free and fair elections in the crisis-torn country

How impact finance can alleviate COVID-19’s economic symptoms

Ghana will grow faster than any other economy this year, the IMF says why

ITU Telecom World 2016: it’s all about working together

We have solutions to crime. We just need to scale them

In New Zealand it takes less than a day to start a business

To win combat against HIV worldwide, ‘knowledge is power’, says UNAIDS report

‘Starvation’ now a reality for displaced Syrians stranded in camp near Jordanian border

White Coat, Stained red

The Sahel is engulfed by violence. Climate change, food insecurity and extremists are largely to blame

In the future, no one should be excluded from healthcare

The scary EU elections result and the delayed Council’s repentance

Caravan of Mothers of Missing Migrants kick off a global migration search movement

Mental health in the pandemic: how to stay emotionally stable?

On sidelines of UN climate summit, US President calls for protection of religious freedom

Science is ‘key’ to pushing forward the 2030 Agenda, UN development forum told

End Syria fighting to avoid ‘even greater humanitarian catastrophe’

Terrorist content online should be removed within one hour, says EP

The Junior Enterprise concept: Business & Education

Summer 2018 Interim Economic Forecast: Resilient Growth amid increased uncertainty

Business management: how can you introduce new ideas?

New ECB boss quizzed for the first time by Economic Affairs Committee

Fit for Future platform selects EU initiatives for simplification and modernisation

To recruit younger people, you have to understand them. Here’s a guide

New technologies, artificial intelligence aid fight against global terrorism

Elections in Britain may reserve a surprise for May’s Tories

A good night’s sleep ‘washes’ your brain, scientists say

Health professionals: the frontline in the fight against the Covid-19

Mexico must increase foreign bribery enforcement: full implementation of anti-corruption reforms could help

Draghi hands over to banks €77.7 billion more

Fail fast, fail better: 3 ways companies can master innovation

EU to Turkey: No other ties than €3+3bn to upkeep refugees

Venezuela: UN human rights office calls for ‘maximum restraint’ by authorities in face of new demonstrations

Why Italy will not follow the Greek road; Eurozone to change or unravel

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s