Vaccine Passport - a much anticipated mandate for travel clearances - domestic and international, is the best use case of a Blockchain problem.

With millions being vaccinated against Covid-19 every day, some political and business leaders are suggesting nations can help get life back to normal by rolling out a so-called vaccine passport: an easily accessible and verifiable certification that a person’s been inoculated. Source

What is the vision for a Vaccine Passport?

It is imagined to be a digital document that should be verifiable across the globe irrespective of the source of its generation. Just like our usual passport - no matter what is the origin of the country, as far as 2 countries have established their systems according to an agreed format to exchange citizens travel information, the passport and optionally visas are accepted as a valid proof of citizenship and is a base for travel. Its VERIFIABLE - unless you reach an island that is completely alien.

The Challenge

Unlike the usual passport - Vaccine passport holds some part of the health records - more specifically Immunization records. And therefore the idea of linking it with the existing passport information systems would be cumbersome because it would need integrations with the EMRs, HIS', Lab systems etc. Since these systems across different countries and different healthcare providers do not follow the same standards of storage and interface the integration task would be a mammoth exercise.

Additionally vaccine provisioning is not limited to federal institutions. There are private players participating in the drive.

The interoperability frameworks like HL7 FHIR are still a distant dream. More info on this topic in another article here

The idea of a vaccine passport would be to create an updated version of the so-called yellow card, more formally known as the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, a World Health Organization-approved booklet documenting your past inoculations. Given the prevalence, contagiousness and devastation of Covid-19, many are suggesting the need for a more modern, digital and secure record. Ideally, it would provide proof of vaccination status and document recent virus test results, which would both reassure border agents and safeguard fellow travelers or event-goers. The demand for such proof has led to falsified and counterfeit paper versions of vaccine certificates, according to WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris. Source

The Blockchain angle

If we divide the problem statement and take a look at the constituent elements we will see how each of them is actually a feature of a typical blockchain solution.

Constituent of the challenge The Blockchain akin
The entire exercise of issuing and verification of vaccine passport is majorly done by Public and Private Healthcare providers, Labs, Airports, Event Organizers etc. These entities therefore are the participants of a network Blockchain solution is indeed about a network of participants among whom the data is distributed
The Vaccination status should be shareable among the above said participants The immunization record in a standard format like FHIR could be considered as the digital information akin to Asset in Blockchain
This asset needs to be non-transferable. It should be impossible for one user to claim vaccination using vaccine passport of another user. NFT i.e. Non-fungible tokens to the rescue; are very much a thing of Blockchain
A verification mechanism to verify the authenticity of the source of the vaccine passport and to ensure that the information is not tampered. Cryptography the heart of blockchain is used to digitally sign the information to let verifier participants verify the source. Blockchain also ensures immutability of the asset with the help of hashing techniques

How would the Blockchain journey look like?

Vaccine Passport as a Blockchain Solution

Is it just an anticipation?

Nope, there are indeed a number of private firms, organizations and governments who are backing and attempting to create a workable global vaccine passport.

VCI (Vaccine Credential Initiative) is taking an initiative that is mandatory for realizing the first step of a Blockchain solution - network of participants. It does so by following the below agenda to build that network. Additionally, it defines a standard for producing and consuming the vaccination records in an interoperable way - this enables a universal mechanism for the verification of the immunity.

The Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI) brings together healthcare organizations, technology firms, nonprofits, academia, and startups working to empower consumers to conveniently access, store, and share digital COVID-19 vaccination records.

Few technology companies have started with live-testing an immunity and vaccination passport with financial support from Innovate U.K., The World Economic Forum and the Commons Project, alongside the Rockefeller Foundation. They have convened more than 350 public and private sector leaders from 52 countries to create a secure platform called CommonPass.

CommonPass is at the verification end of the solution. More details in its FAQ section. There are similar other bodies working on building apps that allows carrying a cryptographically verifiable pass which holds digitally signed immunization/vaccination records. Below are the few names. The digital signature aspect for the verification part is another reason why this use case is apt for Blockchain.

Any takeaway?

There is a belief and optimism that at some point use cases like these and not just financial and KYC applications, will be built on Blockchain.

As more and more applications are built on Blockchain we will eventually need some fuel - a digital oil (similar to ether gas for a Ethereum Blockchain) - to keep these applications running . Since the Blockchain is distributed - and doesn't rely on single source of truth, someone has to spend resources in some form to engineer the consensus from all participants. It could be either Proof of Work or Proof of Stake. What else could be a better fuel than a cryptocurrency itself which inherently is a blockchain implementation. That should ring a bell to understand the possible reason for the rise in transactions of the cryptocurrencies leading to a surge in its prices. Otherwise why would someone pour in so much of a real currency for a cryptocurrency that is so volatile and doesn't have any intrinsic value. It is probably the dawn of new FAANG - CryptoFAANG - who are envisioning it as the currency of the network preparing to ultimately control the Blockchain world.

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