Gearing up for the reopening of international borders and resumption of international travel as countries worldwide ramp up their vaccination efforts, there are talks of governments implementing immunity passports.
A certificate of sorts, which stores travellers’ personal information such as their vaccination records, thus enabling them to prove that they are protected against Covid-19, there are still many unknowns about how an immunity or health passport should be. What standards will governments bilaterally agree upon? If a country adopts a single immunity passport, will it also be accepted in destination countries? What about privacy concerns particularly related to your confidential medical history? Will this immunity passport take the form of a passbook, not unlike the existing passport? If it is stored within an app, will your data be harvested for commercial purposes?
Before Dato’ Dr Nick Boden allays our fears and enlightens us about his own version of the health passport, the Immunitee Health Passport created by Boden’s company Immunitee was recently approved by Singapore. It marks Malaysia’s first health credential authentication system to be accepted into the neighbouring city-state.
Partnering with Temasek-founded Affinidi, through Affinidi’s Unifier digital credential platform as part of a global pilot programme, the Immunitee Health Passport is a system designed to store personal immunisation records and vaccine data. Interoperability is provided by Unifier to securely share the necessary data with the various national health check systems being put in place globally.
To put it succinctly, the Immunitee Health Passport will enable seamless clearance at border health checkpoints starting with Singapore. Boden explains further in this exclusive interview.
We believe health passports will become just as important as a normal travel document, to ensure that travellers comply with both Covid-19 testing and vaccination protocols. This will allow travel bubbles to open up faster, and life to return to some form of normality.
Verifiable digital copies of tests and vaccinations will be the standard in order to prevent fraud, much in the same way that passports have evolved from low tech paper documents to the largely tamper-proof documents that they are today, where in many cases they embed digital technologies.
At the very start of the pandemic, we tried to think ahead and imagine ourselves as if we were living in December 2021 and how it would be possible to ensure that we could travel across borders with an electronically verifiable and authentic vaccination and testing history.
A dynamic health passport like ours is powerful because we have an information registry in the back end that constantly updates the varying requirements of countries around the world for travel, ensuring you can land in a country with no risk of being sent home or unnecessarily being quarantined.
Immunitee is free to download and register and store your details in. The app will be available on both the Play Store and the App Store in March.
Features-wise, the Immunitee Health Passport currently allows users to download it, and use it at partner facilities (Qualitas clinics), to pre-register and link their Covid-19 test to the laboratory doing the test (Clinipath and Gribbles). These labs and clinical facilities will be linked at the back end through APIs.
Once completed, these test results will automatically be stored into the app digitally and the QR code generated will contain this history of testing. When vaccination starts, the same will happen – a QR code will be generated and read once you land in Singapore, allowing you to enter the country.
There will be an annual subscription charge once you need to start using the QR code for verification.
Our objective and resolve is to promote affordability and equitability in securing public acceptance. There will also be an option to store multiple family members in one app, thereby reducing the per person cost.
Yes, we hope to allow the app to provide discounts on testing and to cover different types of testing and vaccination (from MMR to Influenza for example). Additionally, we plan to integrate insurance into the platform.
We believe that Temasek-founded Affinidi will be a key player internationally for this process and this is why we chose them as our authentication partner.
Moving forward we see that health passports will be developed in the same way as credit cards and e-wallets: multiple payment options but a single reader.
The key difference between a “health wallet” and a “health passport” is the ability to cross a border and be accepted into another country.
We also believe that even after the vaccination programme is completed worldwide (which will take at least one to two years), the gold standard will always be testing – testing to measure a suitable antibody response based on individual country’s guidelines for travel.
Therefore, a product like Immunitee is unique because it merges testing and vaccination information in one single app. Here, we will work with multiple laboratories and vaccination centres.
The passport stores your information onto the blockchain using a patent pending security system awarded in August 2020. Every user and facility receives a private key, and there are multiple layers of authentication to secure user data.
Unlike storing information on a cloud server, blockchain ensures extremely secure and private storage personal information. Immunitee does not have any visibility of private information above and beyond a username, email address and phone number.
The biggest benefits of blockchain are the protection of private and confidential patient information, and the fact that it places control of the sharing of that information in the hands of the patient, who is the rightful owner.
Should a user wish to allow a clinic to read a QR code, that clinic has to first and foremost be securely registered and validated, and the patient gives permission to that facility to scan their QR code in order to access the relevant information.
There is, at no time, any wholesale sharing of information.
No one can access the passport unless the user provides permission for this to happen. This could include an enforcement point (Immigration), or a medical clinic requiring a history of your tests, or to gain entrance to a facility that requires you to share your testing and vaccination history.
Because Immunitee provides a platform for all types of tests and vaccinations (Influenza, TB, MMR etc.) we believe our solution will have a long-term future as long as people need to show proof of their testing and vaccination status for purposes of cros-border travel.
(Main image credit: Gustavo Fring/Pexels)