Unsplash. (2020). Vaccine. photograph, Daniel Schludi.
As COVID-19 vaccines are currently being circulated around the world, questions surrounding their implementation are floating in the air. Will vaccines be mandatory for the entire nation? Will they be required for entry into certain places? How will government officials ensure that the infection is contained if vaccinations are not deemed mandatory?
In Ontario, Health Minister Christine Elliot has stated that people’s vaccination status may be used to allow travel, as well as entry, into certain public spaces. She further expanded on her comments during a parliamentary address, stating that Ontarians will be issued some form of documentary evidence as proof of their vaccination status. This document will then be used to gain access to public spaces such as theatres and cinemas, once lockdown measures begin to ease (CBC News, 2020). This strategy is also being considered in the UK, where vaccinations have already begun being administered to health officials (Proof of Vaccination Card, 2020).
The logistics regarding these documents, however, remain unclear. It would be important to understand whether these vaccination proofs will be provided as paper documents that need to be carried as ID cards, or if the data will be implemented into a technological application. The UK National Health System (NHS) intends to provide a wallet-sized ID card for vaccinated individuals. These cards will carry the name of the vaccine, the batch number, and the date of administration (Proof of Vaccination Card, 2020). However, the card contains no personal information about the cardholder, and cannot be used to provide evidence that it is the individual card holder who has been vaccinated (Proof of Vaccination Card, 2020). The record card, therefore, serves more as a method to document vaccine information in case of adverse events, as opposed to acting as proof-of-vaccination.
As such, regions would need to issue individualized proof cards that have appropriate identification methods to verify the vaccination status of the individual card holder. Although an effective method of verification, this ID card may come at a high cost for government systems that may already bear the strain of COVID-19 related expenses. Although citizens could be asked to bear the cost of these verification documents, citizens are likely to oppose this.
Technological verification methods, including applications that contain citizens' health status, are a viable alternative to physical ID cards. The Alipay Health Code, a software implemented in China, assigns colour codes to individuals that dictates if they are required to quarantine or if they may access public spaces and transportation (Mozur, 2020).
The implementation of technological interventions to store patient data, however, raises concerns about the safety and security of personal information. Not only will there be a requirement to ensure that personal information is kept secure, there may also be barriers for some individuals to access the required technology, resulting in unfair divisions, and inaccessibility.
Governments around the world now face an important decision. How can they implement a fair, accessible, and cost-effective strategy to track citizen’s COVID-19 vaccination status? Is the tracking, and subsequent barring, of access to some public spaces justified?
It appears that the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines is not the glorious solution that the world was hoping it would be; rather, it is the first step of a long pathway to recovery.
Ontario plans for proof-of-vaccination cards as 1,676 new COVID-19 cases reported | CBC
News. (2020, December 08). Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-coronavirus-ontario-december-8-update-1.5832467
Proof of Vaccination Card. (2020, August). Retrieved January 12, 2021, from
Mozur, P., Zhong, R., & Krolik, A. (2020, March 02). In Coronavirus Fight, China Gives Citizens
a Color Code, With Red Flags. Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/01/business/china-coronavirus-surveillance.html