Are Vaccine Passports About to Go Totally Global?

As the world is transfixed by the escalating war in Ukraine and its economic fallout, big moves concerning vaccine passports are taking place behind closed doors.

An article published last Thursday by Politico, citing a source from the so-called Vaccine Credential Initiative (VCI™), reported that the World Health Organization is poised to convene member States and representatives of Covid-19 immunization credential technology groups to recognize different vaccine certificates across nations and regions. In other words, as countries around the world drop almost all of their COVID-19 public health measures, it looks like digital vaccine passports are going to be made not just universal but permanent (as I warned would happen in April 2021):

The WHO is bringing together the groups to develop a “trust framework” that would allow countries to verify whether vaccine credentials are legitimate, said Brian Anderson, chief digital health physician at MITRE and a co-founder of the VCI.

Why it matters: The effort would aid international travel by allowing proof of vaccination to be more easily shared and verified, Anderson said. Many countries and regions have different standards for proof of inoculation, creating confusion for travelers and officials.

“It’s piecemeal, not coordinated and done nation to nation,” Anderson said. “It can be a real challenge.”

The WHO would say only that news on the topic should be coming “soon.”

The VCI is behind SMART Health Cards, which have become the de facto standard for digital vaccine credentials in the U.S., with dozens of states developing or adopting the technology. The group will participate in the initiative.

The Vaccine Credentials Initiative (VCI™) is one of a number of private partnerships working to harmonize vaccine passport standards and systems at a global level. The VCI™ is leading the development and implementation of the open-source SMART Health Card Framework and specifications. Its partners include U.S. government contractor MITRE Corporation, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Oracle, Sales Force and Mayo Clinic.

According to its own website, the VCI™ has helped to implement SMART health cards in 15 jurisdictions: the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Hong Kong, Israel, the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Senegal, Qatar, Rwanda, North Macedonia and Aruba. It has also helped to “quietly” roll out digital vaccine certificates across 21 US states, as Forbes recently reported:

While the United States government has not issued a federal digital vaccine pass, a national standard has nevertheless emerged. To date, 21 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico offer accessibility to the SMART Health Card, a verifiable digital proof of vaccination developed through the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), a global coalition of public and private stakeholders…

And very soon, at least four more states will be rolling out access to SMART Health Cards. “We’ve seen a notable uptick in states that have officially launched public portals where individuals can get verifiable vaccination credentials in the form of SMART Health Cards with a QR code,” says Dr. Brian Anderson, co-founder of the VCI and chief digital health physician at MITRE.

Another global partnership seeking to standardize vaccine passports is the Commons Project Foundation (CPJ), which was founded by the Rockefeller Foundation and is supported by the World Economic Forum.

There is also the Good Health Pass Collaborative, which was founded last year by Mastercard, IBM, Grameen Foundation and the International Chamber of Commerce. The organization is the brainchild of the world’s largest digital identity advocacy group, the New York-based ID2020 Alliance, which itself was set up in 2016 with seed money from Microsoft, Accenture, PwC, the Rockefeller Foundation, Cisco and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The ID2020 Alliance’s goal is to “enable access to digital identity for every person on the planet.”

WHO Changing Course

This is all happening as the general messaging around vaccine passports in most countries is that they are on their way out, at least for domestic purposes, as we all return to some semblance of normality. The vaccine passports are moving to the back burner — at least that’s what we are being told. But at the same time, governments, companies and supranational governing entities are working behind the scenes to extend the use of vaccine passports for all international travel, in the process making them a permanent feature of the global legal landscape.

According to the Politico article, the World Health Organization, after publicly opposing vaccine passports for more than a year, is ready to lend its endorsement. If true, it represents a sea change in policy.

Just over a month ago, at the tenth meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the WHO reiterated its opposition to vaccine passports, urging states “NOT… to require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for international travel as the only pathway or condition permitting international travel given limited global access and inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Now, just over a month later, that opposition appears to be crumbling — and not just according to VCI™. 

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