Immunity passports offer a verifiable data point that supports safer access to travel, business, and day-to-day life. ConfirmD provides users a platform to upload, verify, and share their medical information, including COVID-19 status, immunization records, and more. Increasing individual control over health care information is gaining traction as a way of mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aaron Schwid, an international human rights attorney, is the director of public health law at Vital Strategies. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is president and chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, and senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.
With the authorization of a second effective vaccine against the coronavirus, we can imagine an end to the pandemic, like voyagers on a ship seeing the safety of shore.
But it will take many months before we reach the end of this perilous journey, and the public is increasingly losing patience with broad restrictions on day-to-day life. So as more and more people are vaccinated, it’s time to carefully design a system of “immunity passports.”
These passports would serve as a form of proof of immunity, allowing people who have immunity to engage in some activities others cannot. That could make it possible to ratchet down protective measures, such as stay-at-home orders and business closures, without increasing health risks. A venue could finally reopen to some performers, fans and staff. Visitors could return more freely to nursing homes and prisons. International travel could increase.
Versions of these passports already exist. Travel between certain countries requires proof of yellow fever vaccination. Measles and other vaccines are mandatory for school admission. Hospitals and nursing homes require that staff get an annual flu shot.
Immunity passports for Covid-19 — although controversial for scientific, practical and ethical reasons — are already being developed. We need minimum standards to get this right. First, the scientific issues. Any program should be explicit about what a passport means. Neither vaccination nor infection is a guarantee of protection against getting or spreading covid-19. Although results from clinical trials of the three leading vaccines have been overwhelmingly positive, robust data are not yet available on vaccine efficacy in different age groups, races and ethnicities, pregnant women and for those with certain medical conditions. Nor is it known how long immunity will last or whether vaccinated people can spread the virus.
Should the approximately 18 million Americans who have recovered from documented covid-19 infections get an immunity passport, too? Unfortunately, we don’t know enough about natural immunity to certify how long and to what extent someone is protected after recovery. More accurate immunity tests and studies to better understand immunity after infection are urgently needed before we issue any form of passport after infection. Providing passports to people who recovered from natural infection may create a perverse incentive for people to get infected intentionally, especially if they perceive a low personal risk from illness. Policies should not encourage healthy people to risk infection. The more than 300,000 Americans who have died and the 100,000 currently hospitalized are a stark reminder of the danger of natural infection. But if infection is found to confer strong, long-term immunity, we could reallocate some vaccines while they’re still in short supply.
Second, we need practical and universal standards to verify who has been vaccinated. The United States currently uses a paper-based system (upon receiving the vaccine, people receive a coronavirus vaccination record cardwith basic information on it) with few security features that could serve as a trustworthy, official certificate. Nothing prevents these documents from being lost or stolen, and the opportunities for and consequences of fraud are high.
Read the complete article through The Washington Post.