In the 1800s, smallpox ravaged the world. Fortunately, a vaccine had been developed that could protect individuals. This vaccine left a scar at the site of injection and identified the individuals as “immune.”

As we look toward the future of the COVID-19 pandemic, unless the virus burns out or an effective therapeutic intervention becomes available, the only way out of our current situation will be immunity — either natural or induced by a vaccine. If so, we will need to create a digital proof of immunity, a digital version of the smallpox scar, to help society to return to normal.

Ideally, a safe and effective vaccine will be available in the New Year. If this is the case, we will need to have effective systems in place to identify those who are immunized. Our existing system of largely paper records will not be adequate.

Here is how such a system should work.

Most provincial/territorial governments have repositories of immunization data. For the eventual COVID-19 vaccine, they will need to ensure that this data is accurate and that the individual identified did, indeed, receive the vaccine. The government could then issue a verified credential, an immunization badge, which contains an easily scannable barcode or QR code, through government portals. This can be consumable by third party apps or be downloaded similar to a boarding pass.

To enter into certain venues, such as sporting events or for international travel, the digital badge will have to be presented. The bar code will be scanned and matched to an individual’s ID card, just as we do for boarding passes. This will permit entry or travel. Exemptions will exist for medical reasons.

I expect our tolerance for philosophical exemptions will be much lower given the consequences on both health and the economy if outbreaks re-emerge.

Ideally, an international standard for this vaccination will be set under the International Health Regulations which already provide guidance for yellow fever vaccine certificates (Annex 7). This guidance needs to take into account the digitization of these certificates.

More controversial is the issuance of digital badges for natural immunity confirmed by antibody testing. The science and ethics of this solution are not mature at present, but that should not preclude us from considering this option.

As for immunization, antibody data from credentialed labs could be stored in immunity repositories and digital badges issued if a threshold of immunity is considered to be achieved. The most likely initial application of this solution will be front-line workers where, if we are confident natural immunity provides protection, we can create systems ensuring certain percentages of front-line workers are identified to be immune. This will create a form of “shield immunity” disrupting the transmission of the virus and protecting front-line workers and the people for whom they care.

A digital solution will have security and privacy risks that a paper record won’t have. However, a digital solution will be agile and adaptable in a way paper records cannot be. For example, if scientific evidence emerges on waning immunity, digital badges can be revoked. Decentralized ledgers (think blockchain) can facilitate the movement of this information across borders and between institutions.

For the eventual COVID-19 vaccine the government could then issue a verified credential, an immunization badge, which contains an easily scannable barcode or QR code, through government portals. 

As we enter into the next stage of this pandemic, we must start taking steps to ensure we have the right technology in place when science provide us with solutions. I have confidence that the combination of science and technology, with ethical and legal oversight, can accelerate our return to normal.

Are we at that stage where all humanoids are wearing a bar code? I'm happy to be old enough not to care about 10 years down this road but it scares the heck out of me for my children, grand children and great grand children. 1984 or Soilent Green? I found your article most disturbing. I received the mandatory smallpox vaccine to access the education system, and wear the scar. In 1957, pregnant, my husband and I were in bed with feaver for two days recovered the next couple of days and went back to work the following week - so much for the Asiatic flue "pandemic" - unaware of same at the time for lack of "Infodemic". Just seeing the word TRACK sets of horrible alarm vibes. I love my NO but please don't start promoting Bill Gates et als.' one world control ideology.

Kumanan Wilson, your inference to forced immunization and tracking/tracing, along with only those who receive a COVID-19 vaccine be allowed to attend events and mingle in public places, is greatly disturbing to me. It fits nicely with so-called philanthropist Bill Gates' agenda and those pharmaceutical companies he massively funds. As you have received research funding from Sanofi, GSK, Pfizer and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, I shall surely opt out of the program you suggest, which by the way brings to mind the novel, '1984' by George Orwell. As a child growing up in the 60's, I received the usual vaccinations and my daughter received all the usual ones in the 90's. The numbers of vaccines have risen at an alarming rate and given at too young an age before the immune system has a chance to form naturally. Vaccine manufacturers have 'immunity' to any lawsuits being filed against them for serious reactions and lifelong harm caused. If a vaccine has yet to be created to protect against SARS and MERS, how are we to believe that one for COVID-19 will be offered in the next 12 months and will be safe, thoroughly tested vs. a placebo and provide prolonged immunity?

When I was much younger and beginning to travel in the late ‘60s, I remember having to acquire a special travel document that I needed to carry with me with the record of the various vaccines I had received. It was just a little cardboard covered booklet with official stamps and dates of the various coverage I had for malaria, typhoid, etc. Perhaps we need something as simple as that for the digital age. At that time these shots were for Europe.

The worst part of this "article" is that it sounds more like a paid for device for manufacturing consent. I DO NOT CONSENT! One size does not fit all.