Airways and tech giants have competing plans

USC School of Pharmacy Assistant Professor Richard Dang (R) gives Ashley Van Dyke a Covid-19 vaccine as a mass vaccination of health care workers is happening on January 15, 2021 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.

Irfan Khan | AFP | Getty Images

People vaccinated against Covid-19 at Dodger Stadium will leave the virus with a vaccination against the virus, a patch on their arm and a CDC card with handwritten information such as when it was made available and what type of vaccine it was given.

The CDC card is a tradition that dates back to the 1880s when paper cards were first used to allow students to return to school during a smallpox outbreak.

Now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, these maps are being digitized.

LA County patients can sign up to receive a text message with a link to the same information as on the paper card. The message also offers the option of sending a follow-up text to remind the patient to return to the second dose.

It also includes a link for adding all of this data to Apple Wallet, a built-in iPhone app that is typically used to store event tickets and aircraft boarding passes. It can also be added to Google Wallet and downloaded as a PDF file.

“You gave these CDC paper cards that show you received them, but we were concerned about it early on because people just carry their phones around these days,” said Claire Jarashow, director of vaccine preventable disease control at Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said.

The Los Angeles Wallet Pass is one of the first examples in the US of a digital Covid-19 vaccine record that allows patients to save information about their vaccination status on their phones and quickly create it for anyone who needs to know an airline, school or company a stadium where a concert will take place as soon as it is safe again.

Whether they accept it is another question.

There is currently no international or national coordination of best practices for the implementation of vaccination records. As a result, companies hosting major events have no authority to refer to what is legal and what is ethical when choosing their policies and technologies.

The FDA has not approved any third party companies to provide real-time vaccination results. A World Health Organization committee examining the issue met this week but has not released its findings.

What airlines do

The Los Angeles wallet passes are essentially a digital version of the old paper certificate. Authorities cannot verify that it is legitimate or that it has been faked.

In the meantime, various companies, trade groups, and nonprofits are rushing to build competing systems that offer additional security and functionality.

The aviation industry is particularly motivated as it faces a second straight year of depressed international travel. It really wants a system that can be checked and verified as airlines have seen people come up with fake or photoshopped Covid-19 tests so they can fly.

“The world tends to need something to illustrate that you’ve had your test or vaccine to make travel possible,” said Nick Careen, senior vice president, International Air Transport Association (IATA). , a trading group that includes 290 airlines. “We can’t do this manually for the entire planet. Ultimately, we have to digitize.”

This week, Emirates Airlines announced it would be using an IATA-developed app called Travel Pass to check Covid-19 tests before departing Dubai. IATA hopes the system will reduce long queues at airports when employees have to manually evaluate paper records.

According to Careen, there are plans to extend the Travel Pass to vaccines as soon as possible.

A passport for medical records

Medical privacy is another consideration – some proponents say there is no point for a security guard or administrator to have access to medical details that are usually on the paper card, such as: B. what vaccine or test a person received and where the shot took place. Instead, the system should be as simple as scanning a barcode and quickly saying yes or no.

“The whole point is that the auditor is effectively telling what the rules are,” said Paul Meyer, CEO of the Commons Project, which is developing a passport app called CommonPass that tests United Airlines. “The rule could be to have a test in the last 72 hours, or to have both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. All CommonPass does is say red or green. You meet the rules. “

The Commons project is working with a group of technology and health giants to develop common standards – essentially a new type of computer file that can contain vaccination records with all the necessary safety and informational information.

These companies, which include Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic, and Cigna, are not only looking for vaccines, but they’re creating a world where medical records can be accessed from vendors and stored on your phone.

The market for health record technology is potentially huge. It is estimated to be $ 31.5 billion in 2018 and growing 6% annually. Apple (not part of the coalition) already has a system that allows people to save health records on their phones – and which can also be used for vaccination records.

“This is just one kind of really urgent use case that requires it, but it can also help catalyze what should be there anyway. This is the ability for individuals to use any app to get their health information and be in control of it to take them over, “said Meyer.

However, some of the people working on these technologies fear that they are overdeveloped for the short term problem of getting people back to work and play. They point to an exposure notification, a novel technology developed by Apple and Google at the start of the pandemic to anonymously alert people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. While the system was neatly designed to protect privacy, the apps were only launched in the US in the second half of last year and are not widely used.

“When it comes to digital vaccination records, a lot of people solve the third, fourth, and fifth order problems. If it could be amazing, it would look like ‘X’. We focus on the first order problem, where patients have access to theirs in one way Get vaccination information beyond a piece of paper, “said Ramin Bastani, CEO of Healthvana, who developed the software used by Los Angeles Public Health.

Due to the large number of approaches, it is unlikely that a single uniform system will emerge in the USA. Instead, users will likely need multiple proofs on their phone – possibly an airline credential, a wallet pass for the school exhibit, and another app for the sports game.

“Of course, if everyone builds their own credentials system, you can’t talk to each other,” said Jenny Wagner, program director at Linux Foundation Public Health. “All of a sudden, when you want to go to the movies in the cinema or in the office or on a plane, you have to download three different apps, generate the credentials three different ways, and do the paperwork three different times.”

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