A sense of relief is emerging as COVID-19 vaccinations continue to be given around the world. Although hopeful, a new challenge remains: distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Various statistics claim that very little of the world’s population was fully vaccinated in early March 2021. While that number is still low, some regions like Texas have optimistically begun lifting mask mandates in hopes of resuming normal lifestyles. However, other states across America have started taking safer precautions to keep things normal after the introduction of COVID-19 vaccination.
For example, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced a pilot program to test the Excelsior Pass, a solution based on IBM’s Digital Health Pass and based on blockchain technology. According to the New York State blog post, “The Excelsior Pass confirms a person’s vaccination or a recent COVID-19 negative test by confidential data transfer” between companies, as per New York State guidelines.
Blockchain enables secure data exchange
Jason Kelley, general manager of IBM Services, told Cointelegraph that New York had customized the app to meet the specific needs of the state. “Changes are being made to meet these requirements. The underlying technology is the same as the IBM Digital Health Pass, ”said Kelley.
The Excelsior Pass was originally tested during the Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center on February 27th. The app was retested during the New York Rangers game on March 2nd at Madison Square Garden. While the results of these pilots have not yet been released, Kelley stated that the Excelsior Pass works similarly to a mobile airline boarding pass:
“Individuals can either print out their health passport or save it on their smartphone. A QR code informs the venue whether a pass is valid or invalid. The aim is to give residents the opportunity to digitally confirm proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or the vaccination certificate in a simple, voluntary and secure manner. “
Blockchain plays an important role in ensuring that user data remains private when shared with organizations that require a verified health passport. Eric Piscini, vice president of blockchain at IBM Watson Health, previously told Cointelegraph that the Digital Health Pass platform uses blockchain specifically to establish self-sovereign identity along with verifiable credentials.
Kelley said that the IBM Digital Health Pass is based on open standards and allows easy interoperability with other solutions and access to details about the technology used in the application: “IBM built the solution using an open architecture so that other countries can use it Join the effort, “it said,” This could lay the foundation for a safe and interwoven ecosystem that will enable governments, businesses and people across the country to facilitate a safer and more trustworthy transition to a post-pandemic reality . “
Will other regions choose blockchain as a solution?
Kelley mentioned that the goal of the Excelsior Pass is to provide New York residents with an easy, voluntary, and safe method of proving a COVID-19 negative test result or a certificate of vaccination. It’s also important to note that the passport allows New York State residents to voluntarily share their health status on their own terms, without ever revealing the underlying personal information that was used to create those credentials.
Therefore, a blockchain solution could be the missing link to the future COVID-19 vaccination management offerings. It is noteworthy that American pharmaceutical company Moderna recently announced plans to partner with IBM to learn how new technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and hybrid cloud can help support more efficient COVID-19 vaccine management efforts. Moderna will investigate how the Digital Health Pass can be used as a vaccine management solution in the US.
In addition to IBM’s Digital Health Pass, UK-based asset tracking provider Everyware uses a distributed ledger solution from Hedera Hashgraph to manage vaccine storage and management. The Hedera base layer provides a verifiable timestamp and sequence of events throughout the vaccine supply chain so that healthcare providers can share data with other parties in the supply chain. In addition, this storage solution uses hardware to monitor the distribution and administration of vaccines.
Brazil also uses a blockchain-based system to track people who have received a vaccine. Known as the National Health Data Network, this solution is powered by Hyperledger Fabric and uploads data to the blockchain as soon as people receive vaccinations.
While the use of blockchain for vaccination management is impressive, regulations can pose challenges for certain regions who wish to take advantage of such solutions.
Brian Platz, Co-CEO of Fluree – a blockchain-based data management platform – told Cointelegraph that regulatory problems when exchanging data are always subject to the specifics of the implementation and the choice of infrastructure. However, Platz found that verifiable credential technologies, such as that developed by IBM, generally improve privacy and are more compliant than traditional systems:
“In many ways, verifiable credentials are a better way to ensure privacy because they bring control of sensitive information, such as medical information, closer to the owner of that information.”