On Sunday, the Washington Post published an article titled ‘Vaccine passports are on the way, but developing them won’t be easy’ which described the White House’s plan to develop a standard way of handling coronavirus-related credentials – or “vaccine passports” – that would allow Americans to prove they have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus as businesses try to reopen.
According to the Post, the “effort has gained momentum amid President Biden’s pledge that the nation will start to regain normalcy this summer.” There has reportedly been growing interest from a number of different companies around the country.
“[These companies] will require proof of vaccination before opening their doors again,” reports WaPo writers Dan Diamond, Lena H. Sun and Isaac Stanley-Becker.
The administration’s initiative has been driven largely by arms of the Department of Health and Human Services, including an office devoted to health information technology, said five officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the effort. The White House this month took on a bigger role coordinating government agencies involved in the work, led by coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients, with a goal of announcing updates in coming days, said one official.
When asked about the passport initiative, White House officials declined to reveal any further details, but instead referred to public statements made by Zients and others.
“Our role is to help ensure that any solutions in this area should be simple, free, open source, accessible to people both digitally and on paper, and designed from the start to protect people’s privacy,” Zients said at a March 12 briefing.
The passports themselves will be made available free of charge and can be accessed through high tech devices, such as smart phones and tablets. Those who do not own such devices “should be able to print out the passports,” reports the Washington Post.
The European Union is also looking into a passport-type plan that will allow more lenient travel rules for those who hold these special credentials, or as they call them, “digital certificates.”
U.S. officials say they are grappling with an array of challenges, including data privacy and health-care equity. They want to make sure all Americans will be able to get credentials that prove they have been vaccinated, but also want to set up systems that are not easily hacked or passports that cannot be counterfeited, given that forgeries are already starting to appear…
Initiatives — such as a World Health Organization-led global effort and a digital pass devised by IBM that is being tested in New York state — are rapidly moving forward, even as the White House deliberates about how best to track the shots and avoid the perception of a government mandate to be vaccinated.
Some have even speculated that vaccine passports might soon be required in order to take advantage of benefit and welfare programs, such as Social Security, food stamps, VA care and more.
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