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Biden bows to pressure – will promote US vaccine passport

Monday, March 29th 2021 - 09:05 UTC
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The new passports are expected to nudge skeptical Americans to get vaccinated. The new passports are expected to nudge skeptical Americans to get vaccinated.

The news came out Sunday in Washington that the administration of US President Joseph Biden was pushing for the development of a document whereby people should be available to prove whether they have been vaccinated against covid-19 or if they have the antibodies due to having had the disease, it was reported by The Washington Post.

The document, also referred to as “vaccine passport” and should be very similar to the one already created in Israel as is under considerarion within the European Union, is expected to allow citizens to reopen their businesses and go back to their normal lives, which Biden himself has predicted might happen before Christmas as the number of Americans who have received a covid shot grows.

Biden's plans come right after New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday the creation of the IBM-devised Excelsior Pass.

“Similar to a mobile airline boarding pass, individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Pass Wallet app,” New York authorities explained. But the app shall not be mandatory.

“Each pass will have a secure QR code, which participating businesses and venues can scan using a companion app to verify proof of COVID-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination. An individual’s data is kept secure and confidential at all times.”

But despite New York's efforts, calls for a unified system reached the White House, as governments around the world may seek proof of vaccinations before foreigners can enter their borders again.

The federal passports are expected to be free and available through smartphone apps, according to reports released Sunday.

The White House has appointed a team to coordinating dozens of agencies including military officials helping administer vaccines and health officials engaging in international vaccine efforts. Leading the team is Jeff Zients, who on March 1 explained that “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.”

Further announcements are expected in the coming days.

The passports are expected to be free and available through applications for smartphones, which could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass. Americans without smartphone access should be able to print out the passports, developers have said. But the risk of forgeries has led authorities to be extra cautious. There are at least 17 vaccine passport projects, according to The Washington Post.

Proof of vaccination “may be a critical driver for restoring baseline population health and promoting safe return to social, commercial, and leisure activities,” The Washington Post quoted a document from Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology as having said on March 2. “A chaotic and ineffective vaccine credential approach could hamper our pandemic response by undercutting health safety measures, slowing economic recovery, and undermining public trust and confidence,” read another such document.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which is participating in the WHO’s effort to create “digital vaccination certificates,” also is preparing to help advise on the passport rollout.

Vaccine passports are also expected to motivate skeptical Americans to get shots, since the desire to travel and reunite with freinds and dear ones outweigh the fears of the injection, according to polls.

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