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FS Club Webinar: How Could Covid-19 Vaccine Passports Be A Bad Idea?

Catenae’s CEO, Guy Meyer took part in FS Club’s webinar about vaccination passports. Joining the debate was Chiara Rustici who is a cross-border GDPR and EU data regulation analyst and Robert McDowall, a business advisor who has worked extensively in finance and banking. Chairing the debate was FS Club’s Professor Michael Mainelli.

This question is always going to be surrounded by significant moral and ethical challenges because, for many, the idea of a Vaccination Passport is exclusive – in both senses of the word. It creates an “exclusive” club of those who are “in” and therefore excludes those who are not.

The risk of international travel on the community

And beyond this there are national and international challenges around managing the movement of people over borders whether they are domestic, global or political. Chiara discussed the WHO’s checks, balances and requirements to mitigate the spread of disease during a pandemic. Ultimately this comes down to reducing community risk; to stop the spread in community you need to limit international travel and where we are today with a mutating virus means that international travel goes against WHO’s advice and scientific principles.

Robert and Chiara picked up on the “community” later in the discussion; that in a pandemic the ethical parameter is not the right lens. It cannot be focussed on just the individual but must be viewed through the lens of the community: employers and employees, the ability to carry on in “normal” life safely and secure your domestic human rights. Additionally, the lead view cannot be about your international human rights: domestic and community have to come first.

Data security and people’s rights must be at the centre

For the panel, there was an agreement that a short-term solution is what is needed to enable societies and economies to re-open. And the essential and non-negotiable part of this is “short term.” There must be purpose limitation.

A vaccination passport can only exist for a finite period of time. Clear markers must be agreed that post a certain period of time, once certain markers are met (e.g. levels of Covid within society) they will no longer be required. Additionally, they cannot be used beyond their intended scope – namely to safely reopen the economy and society.

Furthermore, data security is paramount. This breaks down into 3 key areas:

  1. It cannot be used above and beyond Covid health status. In other words, function or scope creep must be prevented from the outset with protections put in place.

  2. It is essential the data source is from a domestic centralised, agreed and trusted source (for example Public Health Bodies).

  3. The individual is in control of their data – and Guy points out this is exactly what is core to Catenae’s operating system: the ethical use of data and the right to be forgotten.

Would Covid Passports really prevent free movement?

Guy discusses that actually the opposite is true. The pandemic has upended free movement and travel. However, prior to the pandemic we already had restrictions: the need for Visas to travel internationally, vaccines are already required to enter a vast number of countries. Additionally, we need proof of identity to travel domestically, to provide proof of age to enter pubs, bars and clubs. But to do all of these and more we are reliant on pieces of paper.

Digital solutions are key

Today we have Covid certificates on pieces of card. These can be easily forged, misused and cause a significant risk to the health and safety of society if used fraudulently. Just like the digitalisation of driving licences to protect individuals, this solution is the same. It is about bringing protection and enabling trust, not creating divisions.

There must and can be solutions or alternatives for those who cannot be vaccinated or do not have a smartphone. And this must be managed openly and fairly.

And so, in the 21st century we must integrate the digital tools we have available today, rather than be held back by analogue processes from the previous millennium. The risks of embracing this can be managed. But can we survive the risks if we don’t?

To find out more about our Test and Vaccination Passport App, contact the team on

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