Digital Vaccine Records

by | Oct 8, 2021 | ICT4D |

vaccine records

I have a small blue book, fraying at the edges, containing some bits of yellow paper glued inside. It’s tucked into a plastic sleeve that’s seen better days but helps hold the blue book together, plus other random bits of paper. The book has a Government of Canada stamp on it and inside there are stamps, signatures of doctors, dates, and lists of vaccines I’ve had. Some of additional scraps of paper contain dates, signatures, and names of other vaccines I’ve had outside of Canada.

This is what I travel with, well when I travelled. I used this frayed book to ‘prove’ I had various vaccines to various people who required it. And yet, the book, signatures, stamps could have been created by anyone. There was no fancy holograms to reduce fraud, just my frayed blue book with yellow paper inside, slightly fading over time.

Contrast this with certain websites I use requiring 2 factor authentication using an authenticator app on my phone. Harder to fake than paper. And yet, when my phone randomly died I lost all ‘authentication connections’ that were on it and it was a nightmare to figure out how to restore them.

There is a lot of talk of vaccine passports. Poor choice of words. For the most part, it is a digital version of our vaccine records, which makes sense in our digital world. However, it makes sense because I’m relatively digital literate, have a smartphone, and live in a part of the country where most things are digital. It doesn’t make sense when those assumptions aren’t true. But it also needs to work in a manner that is portable.

My frayed blue book has travelled with me to over 50 countries and has remained the same even when I’ve gone through many passport books. It has worked in highly digital environments and extremely no digital environments. It existed before the iPhone, IOS, and Android. And continues to exist and work regardless of the upgrades going on around.

A digital vaccine record or passport needs to work when we lose our phones or update them or don’t have them. It needs to work for multiple systems AND the person who has received the vaccines.

This is very possible, if we ‘design for the user’ and realise that there are multiple ‘users’ and therefore realise we need governance that treats ‘users’ equitable.

The choice is up to us.

Photo by Spencer Davis


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