By Leon McKenzie
It’s the new world – the “after times” where proving you’ve been fully vaccinated is just part of daily life. You walk up to a restaurant or hair salon and pull out an official card, let the gatekeeper make a scan, and you are allowed to proceed through the entrance.
Without the card, you have to go home.
Maybe this scene isn’t yet a full reality, but it’s on the way. The question isn’t if it will happen, but when it will happen on a major scale.
Most important: How much control will you have over the way it works?
COVID-19 is a global pandemic that could linger for years or even decades, but no reliable and universal way to document and verify vaccinations exists. This puts businesses, governments, and people in peril. It’s crucial to start a secure system for processing vaccine documentation, a system that works for people of all ages, socioeconomic groups, immigration status, and levels of internet and smartphone access.
Getting there means taking a good look at what’s going wrong, what looks promising, and what potential can be found in solutions that have yet to be fully explored. We’ll present such a solution, but let’s first look at the problems the United States faces in implementing a universal vaccine verification protocol.
Problem 1: Nebulous Vaccine Reporting
Vaccine verification is a necessary step toward a prosperous return to American life, but unlike the European Union and Australia, which have developed an electronic COVID-19 passport, the United States has yet to create a reliable process for tracking vaccinations throughout the nation. A nonprofit known as The Commons Project has tried to help by rounding up some state governments and public health organizations and creating a procedure for documentation known as the “SMART Digital Vaccine Record,” but there are many states in America that aren’t yet on board with this idea.
The politicization of vaccines also comes into play as some states, like Florida and Texas, have taken steps to ban digital vaccine cards. Other states, such as New York, have already developed their own. Although a number of states are dutifully reporting the number of vaccines and the accompanying demographic data, such as age and race of recipients, other states have struggled to adequately collect and report data on both the number of cases and vaccines administered.
When you consider how many locations and types of facilities offer the COVID-19 vaccine – pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, schools, local governments – the margin of error magnifies. With vaccine boosters comes the possibility for even more chaos and confusion in the reporting process as many individuals will “mix and match” not only the type of vaccine they receive but also visit different institutions for the doses.
Advocates of the “vaccine passport” point out examples from overseas that are moderately successful in tracking and verifying an individual’s vaccine status. The European Union’s Digital COVID-19 Certificate lets users verify their doses with a QR code. In order to obtain the QR code, the vaccinated individual must request it from their member state by providing basic information. Once the government matches the individual to a proven record of vaccination, they create the code to use for travel or other activities requiring proof. While this system seems ideal, it’s unlikely to work in the United States where records are scattered, and many bureaus are already overburdened with paperwork and record-keeping.
Another example is the “standardized visible digital seal,” offered by the United Nations to the international community, which uses tokens and public key infrastructure to digitally sign the data within the seal itself. Although this technique seems promising, it is still in an experimental phase and would require federal adaptation in the United States.
In the United States, the immediate challenge of vaccine verification is being greedily taken up by big technology providers, who are more than ready to claim the task and take over. Apple is already offering its users an option through its Health Records and Wallet apps. After linking the user’s information to established databases verified by the user, who promises to be truthful, the resulting QR code can be used as proof to anyone willing to accept it.
Problem 2: Forgery
With personal attestation – “Yes, this is truly my information” as the primary proof that vaccine documents are valid, it’s inevitable that forged documents and QR codes will appear. The question, “Does the information presented really belong to the individual presenting it?” becomes a vital concern for businesses looking to keep their employees safe and prevent legal liability.
In March 2021, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center warned the public about individuals selling fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards and politicized social media encouraging the public to print fake cards at home. The warning, published on their website, explained that fake vaccination record cards have been advertised on social media platforms and were being sold through online shops and blogs, many of them on the Dark Web. In late August 2021, state police in New Jersey unraveled a scheme on Instagram in which hundreds of people had purchased New York’s Excelsior Vaccine Cards from a woman calling herself “AntiVaxMomma.”
Other examples of forged cards have popped up around the nation and many of them, including the AntiVaxMomma, are operated by public employees or healthcare workers who have direct access to the databases containing COVID-19 tracking information. Forgery isn’t the only way to get around the system. For example, two siblings close in age and appearance could easily swap IDs or phones and share a digitized vaccine card, even if only one of them was vaccinated.
For employers, forged and inauthentic proof becomes a real worry as an unvaccinated employee poses a legal risk in the workplace and resources must be allocated to establishing policies that punish or suspend such workers. There’s also a larger question about liability to state and local governments who have already declared forgeries to be unlawful. For example, the use and forgery of government seals such as the CDC vaccination card are illegal, with violations ranging from a fine of up to $5,000 or up to five years imprisonment.
In this environment, so full of vague policies and inconsistencies, employers and small business owners are in the uncomfortable position of having to turn in and prosecute employees who forge vaccine documentation. The motivation to find a solution is strong, and there’s no time to wait for state and federal governments to approve a standardized system. Such approval could take years if it ever happens.
Problem 3: Lack of Privacy
If you ask a few unvaccinated individuals or those who resist vaccine mandates and passports why they hold such a position, many will reply with a vehement allegiance to privacy protection.
The world is increasingly a threatening place as social networks and other forms of technology breed enclaves like the Dark Web and QAnon. Misinformation and extremist political ideologies can plant mistrust into the hearts and minds of even the most moderate of people who also, in some cases, have good reasons to be concerned about sharing their personal information with a vaccine verification service.
Most of the current systems for vaccine proof rely on QR codes, a technology that many people are familiar with and have come to trust during the pandemic when the codes helped reduce physical contact with restaurant menus. According to the New York Times, the popularity of the codes has also encouraged businesses to embrace even more apps and tools for tracking, targeting, and analytics and have triggered the concern of privacy experts. Since QR codes can store digital information such as when, where and how often a scan occurs, they have the potential to capture a great deal of information about individuals. A collective paranoia about where and how such information is stored has taken root even among the most seemingly ordinary of Americans.
Resistors Have Their Reasons
As an example, let’s consider a fictional character named Mack. He’s an “average Joe,” the kind of neighbor you’d ask to watch your house when you’re on vacation. But Mack has a skeleton in his closet – a few years back, he fell behind on his child support and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Fortunately, he and his ex-wife were able to strike a few compromises and everything’s fine now, but he’s worried the warrant is still active and is very careful to avoid or opt out of any situation that could cross-link his Social Security number to a police database. Even though Mack is fully vaccinated, he will never sign up for a statewide vaccine database or make an account at a third-party QR app. Due to life circumstances, he’s got a healthy appreciation for complete privacy.
People like Mack are everywhere, and any vaccine verification system must include them. The only viable solution is a full-featured tool that’s easy to use and easy to trust, available in many of the world’s languages and allows you to easily share documentation without compromising privacy.
A Common-Sense Approach
An ultra-secure, fully-encrypted solution to verify and validate a portfolio of vaccine documents can solve the COVID-19 crises by giving control to the user instead of the government or employers. Our developers named it VAX 1 Stop – one stop to enter your data, close the vault, and you’re done. No one can access the data, not even us! Our attestation approaches, which range from personal statements of honor to notarized verifications, ensure the saved information is true and verifiable.
How Does It Work?
Users enter their personal documents into an encrypted data vault with access to one of the premier, ultra-secure vault solutions in the world. Documents can include vaccinations from pharmacies, hospitals, pop-up clinics, and elsewhere. Users can also upload COVID-19 test results or any other media relevant to their status. For example, an immunocompromised individual barred from taking the vaccine might include certification of their illness, allowing gatekeepers to see that the medical condition is authentic.
This inexpensive data vault and simple-to-use app give users control over their own data using blockchain technology. Only you, the user/owner, know what’s inside. All proofs are supported and that includes vaccination cards, notarized documents, test results, and state-issued cards and codes. You can choose the media – print, email, message, image transfer, or SMS – you want for delivering your materials. A single tap on the user interface pulls up your proof whenever you need it.
Businesses benefit from an inexpensive and practical solution to vaccine verification. If you are an employer or other community leader, our solution is for you. Our cross-platform app gives you an easy way to check vaccine status at the door, protecting your space from COVID-19 spread, and protecting your organization from legal liability. You can receive notifications when employees test positive or are unvaccinated, too. Our solution also gives you an option to require test results. Most solutions forget that testing is an integral part of COVID-19 safety management.
Required proof of testing, vaccines, and boosters are becoming more and more common as all types of vaccines gradually gain full FDA approval and businesses resume normal operations. With the politicization of COVID-19 safety solutions, there is more and more concern among both businesses and public institutions that some individuals might try to game the system and present false statements and forged documentation when entering spaces that need to be controlled for safety reasons or to prevent legal liability.
While most people are comfortable enough with vaccine verification to provide their information, it’s important to look also at hold-outs like Mack. Let’s see how he reacts in three fictional situations.
Scenario One: Good Rides Cycle Studio
Good Rides Cycle Studio is the only spin-cycle space in a medium-sized American town. They’re right next door to Coiffed Hair Salon and down the street from a very conservative church and have been in business for nearly a decade. COVID-19 hit them hard because of state restrictions on fitness centers and because many of their clients were hesitant to huff and puff together on bikes in a small area. The studio owner wants to require proof of the vaccine to show his commitment to safety, but asking for paper vaccine cards doesn’t work. Some clients forget to bring the card and others bring forgeries.
When Mack shows up to renew his membership, the check-in attendant hands him instructions on how to easily download an app called VAX 1 Stop. At home, Mack can enter his vaccination record with the lock-tight assurance of complete privacy. The next time Mack comes in for cycling, he can pull out his phone and share the data with the attendant. An encrypted match allows both parties to feel completely confident about Mack’s vaccination status.
But Mack is still worried about his privacy. He decides to put off his return to the cycle studio.
Scenario Two: Oakdale Music Hall
In the same town as Good Rides is the Oakdale Music Hall. A legendary performance space built in the 1920s, the Hall attracts acts from around the world – country singers, punk rock bands, comedians, dance teams, even film festivals. Since the Hall was built in a past era, it’s smaller than many newer venues and its ventilation isn’t the best. It’s crucial to the town’s public health that this popular place works to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The Hall’s owners and the town council are willing to require vaccine proof for every event and soon publicize their solution as VAX 1 Stop.
When Mack goes to the Hall website to buy tickets for his favorite band’s next appearance, he’s provided a link to Vax 1 Stop and information on how to create his locked digital vault. He’s unhappy about the idea of having to prove his vaccine, but reading more about the level of security puts him more at ease. Still, he needs to think more about it.
Scenario 3: Hickory Park Senior Home
A few days later, Mack gets a call from Hickory Park Senior Home. His mom, a resident, is feeling down and could use a visit. The nursing aid tells Mack the home has implemented a new system for keeping residents safe. Vax 1 Stop is easy to use, she tells him, and completely secure. Since elderly populations are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, even those who are fully vaccinated and boosted, the home is steadfast in protecting them from exposure. If Mack wants to see his mom, he has to show his status.
Mack ends the call knowing what he has to do. Signing up at VAX 1 Stop is easy and the membership is affordable. He gathers his information, chooses his attestation approach and has his vault set up in a matter of minutes. With complete confidence, he’s soon able to visit his mom, buy his concert tickets and finally get back to the spin cycling studio. Anytime he needs to prove his status, he uses the simple UI to access and present the information with a single tap.
VAX 1 Stop Opens Doors
Our solution is built on the concept that individuals want control over their own information. Mack is far from unusual in not wanting his data saved to a third-party repository with ambiguous goals.
We provide bank-level access to one of the Premier Ultra Secure Digital Vault solutions in the world.
The bottom line? Our solution is THE GOLD STANDARD in Personal COVID-19 Information Management. We provide COVID-19 health and wellness solutions to individuals, community leaders, business owners and public institutions. Contact us to learn more.
Feel free to reach out to us at 972.301.STOP (7867) or schedule a call on Calendly. We would be happy to provide any additional information you may require.