Trust Is Key As Estonia Tests Global Vaccine Passports
Muhammad Irfan 25 days ago Wed 10th February 2021 | 08:20 AM
Tallinn, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 10th Feb, 2021 ) :Could a QR code open up the world? That is the question in Estonia as it takes a lead in global efforts to develop digital vaccine passports.
The small, tech-savvy Baltic EU member state is working on a pilot project with the World Health Organization on how globally recognised electronic vaccine certificates might work.
There are now many digital vaccine passport initiatives cropping up globally that are raising urgent questions about privacy and human rights.
Nevertheless, digital vaccine certificates are an attractive prospect, particularly for pandemic-hit businesses such as airlines.
Emirates and Etihad, two of the middle East's biggest airlines, announced last month that they would be trying out an application that allows pre-travel verification of vaccinations.
Kaevats, who also advises the WHO on digital health issues, said it would be "impossible" to create a global digital ID in the coming months and that a mix of paper and electronic certificates was more likely.
He said the main focus at the moment was on elaborating global standards to develop "a single common solution for checking the existence of healthcare providers".
Estonia, a eurozone member of 1.3 million people, is known as a tech trailblazer and innovation testing ground, with Estonians helping pioneer the likes of Skype, e-voting and delivery robots.
Guardtime, an Estonian company, is now developing a system for cross-border recognition of electronic health records using blockchain.
Ain Aaviksoo, Guardtime's chief medical officer, said he expected the first countries to begin using digital vaccine certificates domestically "in the coming weeks".
Aaviksoo dismissed privacy concerns for the VaccineGuard system, pointing to the company's use of blockchain to ensure data protection.
Personal and health data remain in the original location and the system provides "cryptographic proof of the certificate and its issuance process and the authenticity of the vaccine," he said.
In response to similar concerns, the WHO-Estonia project is guided by the principles that people should be allowed to delete the data and tech companies should not be allowed to profit from the data that they handle.
But many are still worried about their implementation.
Ana Beduschi, an associate professor of law at the University of Exeter in Britain, said the introduction of vaccine passports "poses essential questions for the protection of data privacy and human rights".
"These passports build on sensitive personal health information to create a new distinction between individuals based on their health status," she said.
This differentiation "can then be used to determine the degree of freedoms and rights they may enjoy".
Before they are rolled out more widely, Beduschi said policymakers should ensure vaccines are universally available and explore alternatives for people who cannot be vaccinated such as pregnant women.
"It is not sufficient to develop technical solutions for the verification of people's health status," she said, adding that "the risks of deploying such technologies must be anticipated and mitigated as much as possible".