Vaccine certificates seem to offer the path towards a post-Covid world. However, establishing a global vaccine certificate remains an elusive goal. Certain regions, like the EU, have developed successful vaccine certificate programs. These have played a critical role in the resumption of social activities and travel for the vaccinated. In this article, we will explore some of the top challenges in developing a globally acceptable vaccination certificate.
1. First Challenge in Developing a Globally Acceptable Vaccine Certificate: Uneven Vaccine Distribution
More than 49% of the global population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. (The fully vaccinated comprise 38.85% of the global population). However, most of the vaccinated populations are from high-income countries. Only 3.7% of people from low-income countries have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
While the uneven distribution of vaccines remains, establishing a global COVID-19 passport could isolate people from countries that have yet to achieve a significant vaccine roll-out.
The WHO emphasized the disparity that would arise if the world were to enforce a global vaccine certificate. Instead, it insisted that equitable vaccine distribution would first need to be achieved before implementing a vaccine passport for travel.
2. 2nd Challenge: Legal and Political Challenges
Many countries still struggle with legal questions in developing vaccination certificates. While vaccine certificates offer the ability to travel or move around without restrictions, some have seen them as discriminatory.
By requiring vaccine certificates to access certain areas, the unvaccinated people might feel sidelined or even compelled to be vaccinated.
In the US, the Biden administration has emphasized that there will be no Federal mandate requiring the use of vaccine certificates. Individual states have established different vaccine mandates. California, for example, requires proof of vaccination for people to attend in-person events with more than 1000 people.
Hawaii also requires proof of vaccination for those traveling to the state. New York, which has been using its Excelsior Pass for some time now, requires proof of vaccination to access select indoor leisure activities.
In other states, however, the use of vaccine passports is banned. Arkansas, for example, signed a law in April 2021, prohibiting state and local governments from requiring proof of vaccination. In Florida, public or private entities that require a vaccine certificate are subject to a $5000 fine for each violation.
3. Technical Challenges
Other challenges relate to technical details about what to certify. For example, for how long should the certificates certify immunity? How long does the immunity last? Different vaccinated populations with different medical backgrounds offer a challenge to create uniform yet accurate expiration dates for vaccination certificates.
Vaccine passports could help in the transition into a post-pandemic world. Nevertheless, there remain challenges in developing a vaccine passport with global acceptance. The implementation of a worldwide vaccine passport would need to address the current challenges. This includes achieving vaccine equality, addressing legal and political concerns, and making technical decisions about the certification process.