Building robust and ethical vaccination verification systems

Brookings TechStream 2021

9 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2021

See all articles by Baobao Zhang

Baobao Zhang

Department of Political Science, MIT; University of Oxford - Center for the Governance of AI; Yale University, Department of Political Science

Laurin Weissinger

Tufts University - The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Johannes Himmelreich

Syracuse University - Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Nina McMurry

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Political Science, Students

Tiffany C. Li

Yale Law School - Information Society Project; Boston University - Boston University School of Law

Sarah E. Kreps

Cornell University

Date Written: January 26, 2021

Abstract

The rapid development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine provides hope that the pandemic might be brought to an end, but as societies roll out vaccines and begin to open up, policymakers face difficult questions about how to best verify individuals’ vaccine records. Building vaccine record verification (VRV) systems that are robust and ethical will be vital to reopening businesses, educational institutions, and travel. Historically, such systems have been the domain of governments and have relied on paper records, but, now, a variety of non-profit groups, corporations, and academic researchers are developing digital verification systems. These digital vaccine passports include the CommonPass app developed by the World Economic Forum to verify COVID-19 test results and vaccine status, as well as similar systems several major tech companies are actively exploring.

VRV systems present both opportunities and risks in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. They offer hope of more accurate verification of vaccine status, but they also run the risk of both exacerbating existing health and economic inequalities and introducing significant security and privacy vulnerabilities. To mitigate those risks, we propose a series of principles that ought to guide the deployment of VRV systems by public health authorities, policymakers, health care providers, and software developers. In particular, we argue that VRV systems ought to align with vaccine prioritization decisions; uphold fairness and equity; and be built on trustworthy technology.

Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic, vaccines, vaccine verification, immunity passports, health policy, public health, health law, privacy, data, health privacy, technology

Suggested Citation

Zhang, Baobao and Weissinger, Laurin and Himmelreich, Johannes and McMurry, Nina and Li, Tiffany and Kreps, Sarah E., Building robust and ethical vaccination verification systems (January 26, 2021). Brookings TechStream 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3782749

Baobao Zhang

Department of Political Science, MIT ( email )

30 Wadsworth Street (Rm 470)
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
8133689992 (Phone)
06511 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://baobaofzhang.github.io/

University of Oxford - Center for the Governance of AI ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom
+1 (813) 368-9992 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://baobaofzhang.github.io/

Yale University, Department of Political Science ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States
+1 (813) 368-9992 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://baobaofzhang.github.io/

Laurin Weissinger

Tufts University - The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

160 Packard
Medford, MA 02155
United States

Johannes Himmelreich

Syracuse University - Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs ( email )

400 Eggers Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
United States

Nina McMurry

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Political Science, Students ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Tiffany Li (Contact Author)

Yale Law School - Information Society Project ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Boston University - Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Sarah E. Kreps

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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