While state lawmakers are pushing against a vaccine passport system, private companies are working to get it done, as it will provide them with a wealth of information and revenue.
The COVID-19 pandemic is proving that the end may not be quite in sight just yet. With vaccinations rolling out in lightning speed, government institutions are looking to find ways to keep track of citizens who have been vaccinated versus those who opted out to have a better understanding of how states should open back up their businesses and borders.
One way is the vaccine passport system. However, there is a political, cultural, ethical and legal dilemma when it comes to implementing such a system and it all boils down to privacy.
While states have expressed their disapproval of such vaccine passport systems, some have already gone and implemented them, just like New York with their Excelsior app. Other states like Florida and Texas are vehemently opposing such a system, going as far as passing a legislation to prevent such a vaccine passport system to be implemented in their states.
The problem lies therein: private companies are pushing lawmakers and legislators to let them come up with vaccine passport systems. After all, any government contract would be a lucrative one that may have them set for life.
According to The Federalist, there are 10 companies working to force Americans to get a vaccine passport through their systems. The first of which is IBM, the company behind New York's Excelsior Pass that launched in March. Surveillance Technology Oversight Project executive director Albert Fox Cahn said it only took 11 minutes to hack into the said app. IBM was paid $23 million by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the said app.
Another company working to force people to get on board with vaccine passport systems is Mastercard, which worked with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance to build "digital immunization record[s]" in marginalized communities. "Vaccination Credential Initiative" is made up of several companies, including Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft, Mayo Clinic, and Evernorth who developed vaccine passports for Apple Wallet or Google Pay. In Los Angeles, Healthvana, Carbon Health, Othena are working to maintain immunization records for its citizens.
The New York Times argues that if such vaccine passports are to be implemented, there should be less to no "middlemen" handling a person's information, because layers of technology will not only be more expensive, it also makes it easier for those with ill intentions to steal information. In fact, the only two things one needs to show to certification is one's name and whether one has been vaccinated, nothing else. No medical records, no medical history.
The good news is that the U.S. government is not supportive of a vaccine passport system. According to Fortune, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had declared, "The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential."
"There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential," Psaki said, stressing that the main fear is just like everyone else's, that it may be "used against people unfairly."
It remains to be seen, however, whether the Biden administration will hold true to what Psaki said.