Los Angeles is launching a digital iPhone receipt for COVID-19 vaccinations, which may one day become a “vaccine pass” that will be needed for activities such as flights and live concerts.
The plan, which will be rolled out this week, will see Los Angeles County partner with technology company Healthvana to issue the digital confirmations, which can be placed in an Apple Wallet or Android equivalent, Bloomberg reported.
The project was originally aimed at ensuring that people who receive the first shot of the approved Pfizer or Moderna vaccines also receive the necessary booster shot, including through follow-up alerts.
But the digital receipt can also be used ̵
But critics fear it marks the rise of a vaccine surveillance state, where digital “passports” are required for everything from flying a plane to going to the movies.
Los Angeles Fire Chief Elliot Ibanez, on the left, receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine given by LAFD paramedic Anthony Kong on Monday. LA County will soon begin issuing digital evidence of vaccination, increasing the possibility of a new “vaccine passport” system
The plan to be rolled out this week will see Los Angeles County partner with technology firm Healthvana to issue the digital confirmations, which can be placed in an Apple Wallet (archive photo)
LA’s vaccine reception comes as the county has emerged as the latest US epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, topping 7,000 hospital admissions in Covid for the first time Monday.
Health officials hope that digital records can help streamline the complex two-step vaccination process, and ensure that no doses are wasted on people who fail to get the necessary booster shot.
But privacy groups have warned of the potential future effects of a “computer grab” of medical information from public and private companies.
“This great moment of hope must not be seen opportunistically as another computer attack,” the law firm Privacy International said in a statement.
‘The deployment of vaccines, and in particular any’ immunity passport ‘or certificate associated with the vaccination, must respect human rights,’ the group added.
In May, the ACLU wrote: ‘Any immune system sports system jeopardizes privacy rights by creating a new surveillance infrastructure to collect health data. It is one thing for an employee to voluntarily disclose their COVID-19 status to an employer on a one-time basis. But there is another for the information to be collected and stored, either by the government or by private companies that offer immunity certifications.
“ The existing legal framework may not be sufficient to prevent this information from being shared, especially if it is owned by private entities. ”
A “vaccine pass” system will also raise questions about what to do with people who have natural antibodies to the virus after recovering from an infection.
The vaccines currently administered in the United States are not currently approved for people under the age of 16 due to a lack of clinical data for that age group, which raises questions about how children will be treated under a passport regime.
Critics fear that it marks the rise of a dystopian vaccine surveillance state, which requires digital ‘vaccine passes’ for everything from flying a plane to going to the cinema
And since vaccination has been much slower than the federal government had estimated, with just over two million shots to date, a passport system raises concerns for a two-part society that shuts down those who have not been able to access the vaccine.
The ACLU wrote: ‘As tempting as immunity passports can be for policy makers seeking a quick solution to resume economic activity in the face of widespread suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, they present both public health concerns and civil rights that cannot be overlooked .
‘Immunity passes stimulate vulnerable people to get the disease, and increase the possibility of another hierarchical system, and separate us into two categories – those with COVID-19 immunity, who are given priority for work, housing or public accommodation – and those without.
‘This division is likely to exacerbate existing racial, disability, and economic inequalities in America and cause people to struggle to afford basic necessities to consciously risk their health.’
Privacy International has said: ‘Until everyone has access to an effective vaccine, any system that requires a passport for entry or service will be unfair. The vaccine is a public health exercise and must not be a new discriminator. ‘
An ER employee was vaccinated against coronavirus last week in Los Angeles. The city is one of the first to start issuing digital proof of vaccination
The Australian airline Qantas has already announced that it will start requiring coronavirus shots for all passengers on its international flights.
Companies such as concert halls and live sports, which are desperate to get crowds back as soon as possible, have also suggested that vaccine passes could kick-start the economy, a stopgap measure for the pandemic once and for all.
Last month, Ticketmaster announced that they would launch an alternative in their digital ticket app that allows organizers to demand proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test.
The company backpedaled quickly after facing setbacks, and issued a statement stating that ‘there is absolutely no requirement from Ticketmaster that requires vaccines / testing for future incidents.’
A number of companies are working on digital vaccination verification systems, including IBM and Clear, a security company that uses biometric technology to verify people’s identities at airports.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is promoting a vaccine pass called the IATA Travel Pass, which is still under development.
The system will inform passengers about the tests, vaccines and other measures they need before they travel, and provide digital verification of tests and vaccinations to airlines or other authorities.
Heath data faces strict rules under federal law, which companies that pursue vaccine passports all say they comply with.
The patchwork of various proposals has also raised fears that vaccine verification systems adopted in a state or country may not be compatible with them elsewhere.
The Commons Project, in collaboration with The World Economic Forum and a number of public and private partners, hopes to address this issue with CommonPass, ‘a trusted, globally interoperable platform.’
‘You can be tested every time you cross a border. “You can not be vaccinated every time you cross a border,” Thomas Crampton, head of marketing and communications for The Commons Project, told CNN Business.
However, Healthvana CEO Ramin Bastani expressed doubts that some vaccine verification services would be ubiquitous across the country.
“It’s not going to be like a credit card you can use all over the United States,” he told Bloomberg. ‘Sometimes you can pay in cash, sometimes you can use Apple Wallet.’