A vaccine passport is a documentary proof of a person being fully vaccinated, thus having the minimum probability of being a carrier of COVID-19. However, does the road to make vaccine passports a reality as simplistic as it sounds? Certainly not, for there are already global debates with the World Health Organization (WHO) confirming that a consensus on the issue is yet to be reached.
India has suggested that the debate over vaccine passports must focus on vaccine equity, which is the most logical step to be taken at present. Amid the ongoing debates, however, several administrations like the European Union (EU) and Japan have already made announcements pertaining to vaccine passports.
With vaccines now becoming a necessity for mankind in its fight against the pandemic, there is no argument against one fact whatsoever that our travelling needs to be secure with the utmost precision. Further, to mandate vaccine passports for travel, it is necessary for a country to have a central paperless, authenticated and tamper-proof system in place. It would need integration of multiple governmental authorities and departments, active participation of citizens and a fast pace of vaccination.
The power of a passport is usually adjudged by the number of countries giving a visa on arrivals. Therefore, it is mandatory that whatever tool is used to enable the paperless processes is in compliance with the laws of different lands and other international security standards.
For adopting digital documentation, there are region-specific compliances prescribed under laws like the IT Act 2000 (India), the ESIGN Act (USA), the eIDAS (EU), the FIPS 140-2, the SOC2 and the SOC3. Furthermore, there are high-security standards such as the ISO 27001, the EU-US Privacy Shield and the SSAE 16. We are also compliant with the FDA 21 CFR Part 11, the EMA, the IT Act 2000 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
A paperless vaccine passport can provide effortless and seamless travel globally only when the aforementioned norms are adhered to.
Since vaccination is a sort of official declaration, the certificates and passports need to be signed by multiple designated authorities as well as recipients. Solutions like digital, electronic and hybrid signatures can be used for these purposes. For instance, vaccine recipients in India need to self attest documents, they can do it using Aadhaar signatures, wherein all they need is an Aadhaar number and an OTP received on their registered mobile number. Going beyond that, when a document needs signatures from different departments as well as passport holders, it can first be signed using digital signatures by different departments, following which the passport holders can put their electronic signature on the same document.
The void of such a mechanism can be seen in many African countries that insist on Yellow Fever vaccination from African travellers entering their borders. But, due to lack of technology and infrastructure, there is rampant misuse of the guidelines and fake certificates that makes it more difficult for the authorities to keep a check on the menace.
The current global pandemic is posing somewhat similar challenges on the global level where the smart document solutions can help verify the vaccination dose and date. With so many vaccines being developed in different countries, it would also be easier to crosscheck the same in accordance with the guidelines and recognitions issued by the WHO.