In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the biggest challenges we face is finding a way to contain the virus while also allowing daily life to return to normal. One solution being considered and developed is a digital immunity passport (also commonly referred to as an immunity certificate or antibody app).
An immunity certificate would likely manifest as a digital document used to indicate that an individual has tested positive for antibodies to fight SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The most convenient and versatile mode for sharing a digital immunity passport would be through a smartphone app.
Potential for immunity passports extends well beyond certifying antibody test results. Immunity passports could also certify and share results of Covid-19 molecular tests—which detect the active presence of Covid-19 in a patient—and eventually, they could be used to verify that a person has received a vaccine for Covid-19, once vaccines are approved and produced for widespread use.
How will immunity certificates be used?
Immunity passports could be very useful as individuals return to normal day-to-day activities, including work, school, and travel. For example, many businesses plan to use a combination of both molecular and antibody tests as part of their “return to work” plans, with vaccination certificates hopefully to follow. With digital immunity passports, employers will be able to reliably verify the immunity status of each of their employees, while employees will have a secure and reliable tool to share that status.
This solution could naturally extend into many other segments of life, as schools are reopened, brick-and-mortar businesses open to customers, and travel resumes.
Concerns about immunity passports
Given the current conditions of the pandemic and the diagnostic testing market, unfortunately we can’t yet rely on antibody tests as a guarantee of any specific duration of immunity. Still, it’s no less important to plan for responsible, reliable and convenient sharing of Covid-19 test results once health officials deem antibody tests effective in indicating immunity. While immunity passports may not be an airtight solution at this very moment, we expect they will become one in the very near future.
While the advent of immunity passports seems like an obvious way to return to normal life, some experts are wary of adverse consequences. There are important concerns that need to be resolved before these passports become widely adopted. Concerns relate primarily to privacy and equality.
Regarding privacy, it’s important that test results be treated with the same sensitivity as any other health records. Patients will need to feel confident that their information is easily accessible, but also well-protected. Of particular concern, immunity apps will need to be able to transmit information securely between parties without risk of exposure to identity thieves and other bad actors.
Regarding equality, one of the significant risks of establishing immunity passports or immunity certificates is that it could create a two-tiered society where some people have a range of freedoms and opportunities and others don’t.
It’s important that engineers of these plans are mindful about how to make solutions widely accessible, and to not put undue pressure on people to be granted immunity status. For example, if freedoms for one group (people who are immune) are dramatically different from others (people who are not immune), it could promote reckless and unsafe behavior where people seek to become infected in order to have the same freedoms as those who are immune.
Solution: Virtual Verified Identity Documentation (vVID)
JDP is leading the way in the development of a digital immunity passport solution called Virtual Verified Identity Documentation (vVID). vVID is a blockchain-secured ID card that contains a person’s biometrically-coded identity, affiliated credentials, and Covid-19 status, in a secure smartphone app. Covid-19 statuses will evolve over time, with milestones to include detection of antibodies, confirmation of immunity, and certification of vaccination. vVID is portable, shareable and allows users to control who receives their information.