As distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines slowly rolls out throughout the U.S., Mayo Clinic, Epic, Cerner, Microsoft and Oracle are among a coalition of providers and software giants working on an initiative to try and make it easier for recipients to prove they’ve received a shot.
The Vaccination Credential Initiative is spearheaded by the Commons Project Foundation, a non-profit that promotes safe digital access to health records. The VCI would allow individuals to keep an encrypted copy of their vaccination record in a digital wallet, or provide a QR code for those without access to smartphones or other high tech.
The VCI said it is working on the most critical aspect of widespread usage of an electronic credential: "developing a standard model for organizations administering COVID-19 vaccines to make credentials available in an accessible, interoperable, digital format."
The rollout of the two vaccines approved to fight COVID-19 is expected to pick up steam as the Biden administration comes into office and devotes more resources to production and distribution. Proof of vaccination could allow for quicker re-openings of restaurants and other businesses if individuals could easily produce evidence they have been vaccinated.
VCI is aimed at speeding this process along by essentially allowing individuals to show proof of vaccination on demand. A statement by the coalition noted "the current vaccination record system does not readily support convenient access, control and sharing of verifiable vaccination records."
The digitization of vaccine records could make it easier for Americans to show proof of their vaccine using widely available smartphone apps such as CommonPass. That app can currently verify whether an individual has recently been tested for COVID-19.
"The goal of the Vaccination Credential Initiative is to empower individuals with digital access to their vaccination records so they can use tools like CommonPass to safely return to travel, work, school, and life, while protecting their data privacy," said Paul Meyer, CEO of The Commons Project Foundation. "Open standards and interoperability are at the heart of VCI's efforts."
Meyer noted that the VCI could be used in conjunction with the World Health Organization for potential global distribution of a digital vaccine credential.
Meanwhile, getting the provider community and federal healthcare agencies to promote widespread information sharing for the VCI to work appears to be a major challenge. Only in recent days has HHS begun pressing hospitals to release vaccination data on their employees.
The American Hospital Association appears frustrated by the slow vaccine distribution process, and urged the incoming Biden administration to "provide strong federal leadership of the vaccine distribution and administration process."
"We strongly believe the most important role for your administration will be to act as the quarterback for this massive undertaking. There are many willing hands, but as the number of entities involved in the effort grow, the task of minimizing confusion and keeping everyone working toward the same goal becomes more critical — and more difficult," AHA President Richard Pollack wrote in a Thursday letter to Biden.