The alarm is set for 5:50 AM, giving you a 10-minute period to get ready when the next set of vaccination appointments drop. Open the laptop, log-in, and head right to the vaccination registration webpage. It takes you to the page to select an appointment, and you are in. It is your turn to get a shot and get your vaccination card. While having the card is proof that you have the COVID-19 vaccine, there may be a better way—with Vaccine Passports.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges for the world. Top pharmaceutical companies have developed multiple vaccines within the past year There have been more than 335 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered around the world, according to the World Health Organization.
Vaccination information has historically been made into cards to signify a person has been vaccinated. When it comes to travel, these cards are inconvenient, and risk being stolen. As more people get the shot, there has been a lot of talk about using vaccine passports to help prove that people are traveling safely. Let’s explore this topic further:
What is the current method for documenting vaccines?
To understand the context in which Vaccine Passports have been conceptualized, we must first cover the current method for documenting who has received the vaccine and who has not. The current document for travelers to other countries is the International Certificate of Vaccination. This is a yellow booklet that has the dates of vaccine shots administered to the individual in possession of the booklet. It is required for health and border authorities to use when determining whether visitors are compliant with all the required vaccines for entry.
What is a Vaccine Passport and who has been working on them?
There have been various reports about implementing Vaccine Passports in the wake of the pandemic. A Vaccine Passport is a digital document proving you have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Since it is stored digitally on a device, the physical card would no longer have to be carried around.
According to the NY Times, there are many versions being worked on by airlines, industry groups, nonprofits, and technology companies. The consensus seems to be that it will be digital and easily accessible on your mobile phone through an app or digital wallet.
Biometrics impact on the creation of Vaccine passports
Any kind of document, especially a passport, needs to be built on a foundation that allows it to operate across borders and jurisdictions. Biometrics could be the easiest and fastest path to get started. It can add convenience and security, while identifying a person’s vaccination status easily.
Digital documents such as a vaccine passport can provide numerous benefits, but to make sure personal information and health records are safe, they need to be secure. Security needs to be high on the list when aiding the creation of a digital document, which means the digital solution that is supporting it must be robust. Since the Vaccine Passport would arguably be more secure than a physical certificate, it could leverage biometrics to provide extensive security. Biometrics rely on something you are, by using your face, voice, iris, etc. instead of something you have, like a password or answer to a security question. This stronger security method could decrease theft or hacking, ensuring personal information stays safe.
Biometrics could aid in the creation of vaccine passports by integrating with the functionality of smartphone cameras and microphones. By being mobile, biometrically–powered passports can be used virtually anywhere.
The biometric modality most likely to be used for vaccine passports is anticipated to be face or voice recognition, as authentication can easily be performed on a mobile device. For a person to access a vaccine passport they would present their face as part of the authentication process instead of entering a username or password or answering a security question.
It has been speculated that the paper vaccine card may not be enough to allow international travel once borders open up again after COVID-19. One potential reason is because they are quite easy to replicate. Biometrics used to authenticate a digital passport could help solve this problem. Particularly if the solution uses liveness detection to prevent against spoof attacks. A “spoof attack” is an attempt to impersonate someone else by using a mask, photo, etc. The liveness part determines whether the subject is a living person, instead of such an attempt.
Leveraging biometrics in the creation of vaccine passports to signify a person’s vaccination status while traveling would hold the key to numerous benefits—most notably security. Mobile devices at the center of these passports would capitalize on the existing integrated functionality to support biometrics with microphones and smartphone cameras. Thus, authenticating an identity would make the passport difficult for hackers to replicate, keeping personal information safe and secure.
Only time will tell if Vaccine Passports are, in fact, introduced to encourage international travel in a post-pandemic world. Hopefully, the next time you set that alarm to jump on a website so early in the morning, it’ll be to book a flight to wherever you want to go.