Vaccine passports have been in the works since before COVID vaccines were made available and have existed in more basic forms for years. Proof of yellow fever vaccination and other shots have been required for travelers to certain countries for centuries.
However, the idea of a COVID vaccine passport has been seen as a way to safely open up everything from live music to international travel. Many countries are now requiring proof of vaccination for entry, while in the US, New York is introducing vaccine requirements for a range of indoor venues from restaurants to gyms.
The problem is that there is no single credible vaccine certificate that can be used everywhere. In the UK the NHS COVID Pass displays your vaccination status, while in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides only a paper certificate.
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There are efforts across the US to create a more universal digital solution, including New York’s Excelsior Pass (opens in new tab), IBM’s Digital Health Pass and the IATA Travel Pass but none of these are widely available as yet.
One solution that has seemed to be gaining traction is the SMART health card (opens in new tab), which is an open-source framework that can be used by a range of apps. This provides a QR code that can verify your vaccination status without sharing all of your information.
However, the obvious solution might be right in front of us. During Apple’s rundown of the new features coming to its iPhone software this year in iOS 15, it struck me that the combination of a new identity card function and the existing health data would be the ideal place to display vaccine passports.
One of the interesting additions in iOS 15 is the upcoming ability to display work ID cards and even state driving licenses within the Apple Wallet. These ID cards for students and workplaces can be used in place of physical cards, even allowing entry into buildings.
By scanning your driving license into the phone – both front and back – you will then in theory be able to present your phone in place of your license where it would normally be required. This includes when requested by the police or even at TSA when flying domestically, though this may take some time to roll out.
Coupled with the fact that Apple’s health app is already able to link to a range of hospital records to show your allergies, vitals and lab results, adding your vaccine status here seems a natural step.
Of course, not everyone has an iPhone, and therefore an equivalent Android solution would also be needed. Perhaps with help of the SMART health card, these could both work on the same system. If you’re already willing to put your credit card, hospital information, and ID card on your phone, then adding your vaccine information shouldn’t be a stretch. And if it helps us to open up the world again in a safe way, what’s to lose?