I have been monitoring the vaccine credential effort for a long time and watching various initiatives worldwide with a particular focus on what might be done in the United States. In a series of blog posts over the past several months I have described at length how the situation in the US differs from the situation in many other countries. In this post I will review the “facts on the ground” as I see them and offer a way forward for the US.
More than a year into the COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus, one of the key factors to reopen the United States and some other countries may be a requirement for individuals to prove that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. This “Proof” of vaccination is called vaccine credentialing and will likely be embodied in a paper or electronic certificate. We have discussed this extensively in a series of articles (see below). On the other hand there are already systems of records that have a far more extensive vaccination history. There is a major concern here among public health officials that the push to minimalization with vaccine credentials will push aside fuller vaccination history. As part of their core function, Immunization Information Systems (IIS) already provide complete and comprehensive immunization records for the individuals whose records they hold either directly or through a clinical provider. In this article we will address the similarities and differences between vaccine credentials and traditional immunization histories and offer some opportunities for public health to maintain its role in data access.
US public health agencies have been playing a critical role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are currently managing an unprecedented vaccination campaign. Immunization Information Systems (IIS) are a key tool that these agencies use to manage their public health mission and the vaccination campaign. How should public health agencies understand and manage the flurry of controversy – and the loud cautions – surrounding digital vaccine credentials? This blog post is part of a series of posts we have written over the past few weeks where we offer specific advice to reduce confusion about what vaccine credentialing is and how it functions. As a leading public health informatics consulting company, HLN is uniquely positioned to provide guidance and support for government, private enterprise, and consumers interfacing with IIS projects and their standards. A list of previous posts in the series can be found at the end of this post.
In my previous article, I wrote about the World Health Organization’s Interim guidance describing its technical approach to Smart Vaccination Certificates. What the WHO is doing is the first step. In this article, I would like to address the next steps that need to be taken. Specifically, how are organizations going to use the Smart Vaccine Certificates. This issue boils down to the rules that are going to be developed and adopted to make the SVC’s usable. Many of these rules currently don’t exist so we will start by analyzing some key factors.
On March 19, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued its Interim guidance for developing a Smart Vaccination Certificate (SVC). This initial, admittedly incomplete document is aimed at describing WHO’s technical approach; two subsequent releases over the next few months are expected to cover ethical and privacy considerations (April 2021), and a further iteration of the technical considerations with additional emphasis on trust frameworks (May 2021). This current document is essentially a “request for comment” about WHO’s proposed technical approach. As usual, our observations will be focused on implications for the United States.