What is an Immunity Passport for COVID-19?
To ease travel restrictions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, nations such as Denmark, Chile, and the United Kingdom have announced the issuance of immunity passports or similar kinds of certificates to the people.
The proposed certificates would attest at least one of the three things-- holder has been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus or has recovered from it.
By the end of February 2021, Denmark will launch the first version of the passport while Sweden will launch the said passport by summer this year, provided an international standard that can be agreed upon.
Many experts have cautioned the governments worldwide against acting in haste, as studies are underway about the spread and immunity to the COVID-19 virus. Without complete information on the COVID-19 virus, categorising between immune and non-immune people will be a challenging and potentially dangerous task. Further, issuance of the aforementioned certificates would create resentment among the people and may raise the possibility of stigmatisation.
What is an immunity passport?
Immunity passport is a certificate which indicates that the person to whom it is issued-- has been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus or has recovered from it. Governments and organizations across the world are planning to issue digital travel passes either through an app or part of a digital wallet. In Israel, the immunity passport will also exempt travellers from quarantine.
How will the immunity passport work?
IBM is currently developing a Digital Health Pass that will allow people to access public places such as airports, stadiums, universities and offices. The Health Pass will include data such as temperature checks, virus exposure notifications, test results and vaccine status.
Swiss group is developing a CommonPass that will allow people to access testing and vaccination information. The Common Pass will house a QR code that will provide the said information to the authorities.
How would a person get an immunity passport?
To receive an immunity passport, several tests will be conducted which will, later on, help the scientists and researchers to study about the virus. The test will identify whether the person who is immune has the specific antibodies to fight off the deadly virus or not. Another test will identify the specific proteins that the immune person's body produces after getting infected with the virus. It must be noted that it takes over a week for our body to produce antibodies against the virus.
What are the challenges associated with immunity passport?
1- Since the efficacy of vaccines is yet to be determined, the effectiveness of such passport is questionable.
2- As individuals are concerned about privacy, the major challenge will be to assure the individuals about the same.
3- The immunity passport will further add a layer of bureaucratic paperwork.
4- Furthermore, the issuance of vaccine for all income and age groups is another challenge.
If everything works as expected, then the immunity passport will help in preparing a mass study about how many people are already immune and vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
It is to be noted that immunity passport is not a new concept and people have been travelling with 'yellow card' to countries that require vaccinations against yellow fever/rubella/cholera/ malaria.