Vaccine passports are here, but who will use them?

Updated: Mar. 30, 2021 at 12:00 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The Biden administration is reportedly working on a program that would allow people to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The so-called “vaccine passports” may be used to attend concerts, enter businesses or board a plane. It’s sparked a nationwide debate over privacy rights and ethics.

A Phoenix-based company recently launched a free app called “ConfirmD.” Users simply download the app on their smartphone and upload their COVID-19 vaccination records and test results. Creators say thousands of people are now using the app.

“We found that it’s very important to verify people are who they say they are,” said Dr. Ramsey Kilani, the chief medical officer and co-founder of ConfirmD. “So, the first step is that we ask you to provide a government issued ID. That ID will be scanned against a database of known government IDs. Once we have confirmed that, we get rid of that data; we delete it, it’s not stored. None of the other apps that are out there right now are focused on being able to verify the validity of health records. We have a team of nurses that are working in a telehealth environment verifying all of these records.”

ConfirmD generates a QR code which can be scanned for proof of vaccination. Dr. Kilani says he understands people’s concerns over who has access to their medical records, but says extreme care was taken in developing an app that prevents hackers from gaining entry. Dr. Kilani says only a handful of companies have met Apple’s privacy protection requirements.

“We have all of the highest end security measures in place that you can possibly put into an app like this,” he said.

Arizona attorney Marc Lamber isn’t convinced vaccine passports will take off. He says there’s been no indication of a looming federal vaccine mandate, and even if Arizona attempts a statewide mandate; which is legal, we are in uncharted waters.

“Because we have an emergency use authorization, so these vaccines are not even fully approved,” Lamber said. “I don’t know what courts are going to do with it. I think different states are going to do different things, kind of like with the masks.”

Lamber says it will largely be up to the private sector.

“So long as they are not discriminating against someone [who has] religious or they have medical reasons why they can’t get the vaccine,” said Lamber. “Businesses right now have taken such a hit because of COVID. They are probably, among many other things, balancing the risk. They want to have a safe business, but at the same time … they want to have a business! I can see less competitive businesses like music venues having a concert and requiring that passport once everyone can get the vaccine. It’s a politically heated issue. Whether you do it or you don’t do it, there are people who could be critical of you.”

Lamber says companies that do take a vaccine passport approach will still have to accommodate physical records for those without smartphones.

For Dr. Kilani, it’s still the best way forward.

“If we all believe that vaccines work and we can prove that we are vaccinated, then why wouldn’t you then be able to take that information and turn it into a more informed reopening that preserves business and the economy?” he asked.

For more information on ConfirmD, click HERE.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently advised against using vaccine passports for international travel, saying there are “critical unknowns” about the effectiveness of the vaccines and “preferential vaccination for travelers” could cause shortages for at risk populations.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.