I have written previously about the role that Immunization Information Systems (IIS) play in the US with respect to providing authoritative, complete information about vaccinations for the citizens within their jurisdictions. Under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leadership, the IIS community is making strides towards enabling a more transparent exchange of information between IIS. This is to primarily ensure that vaccinations received by an individual in a location other than where they live (for example, a workplace or school in another state) will find their way to the IIS in the individual’s home jurisdiction. This ensures that the IIS where a person lives has as complete a record as possible.
I have been writing for some time on the topic of vaccine credentials in the US and especially the role of public health registries in creating and supporting them. While the rules around data management for vaccinations apply within the US, people move in and out of the country and their data needs to move with them. Managing and documenting vaccination events for people inside the US who received COVID-19 vaccinations outside of the US is challenging and may not get easier anytime soon.
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.
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.