Vaccine passports could speed the journey to a new postpandemic normal, but take account of these variables in building scenarios and strategies around them.

Travelers are used to having their tickets scanned before they board an airplane. In the near future, flight attendants may also ask to scan your vaccine passport, a digital record of whether you’ve been inoculated against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Vaccine passports are gaining traction as a way to facilitate the return of individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 to restricted spaces, such as public transportation, work locations and even countries.

Organizations are forging ahead with digital solutions to reopen economies and travel routes — but without a global standard

Given that it’s likely to take more than a year before vaccine distribution and administration reaches most of the world population, passports are a critical tool for increasing economic activity without risking a new wave of infection.

“The World Health Organization first established vaccine certification standards for yellow fever in 1933, and has issued paper medical passports in some form ever since,” says Donna Medeiros, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “Now, organizations are forging ahead with digital solutions to reopen economies and travel routes — but without a global standard to guide them.”

Key players in delivering and enabling vaccine passports

January saw the launch of the Vaccine Credential Initiative, a partnership between technology and health organizations, including Microsoft, Cerner, Epic, Salesforce and the Mayo Clinic. The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has launched a digital health working group tasked with developing standards for a digital vaccine certificate.

These high-profile efforts increase the potential that vaccine passports will become a reality, even as important questions remain about the standards that will apply to digital vaccine passports, including the technology vaccine passports will use, the source and verification of data and definitions of immunity among them.

Organizations don’t have to wait for answers, however, to begin considering different scenarios involving passports, and the role they will play in creating and promoting them. 

Read more: 5 Questions Business Leaders Should Ask as COVID-19 Vaccines Roll Out

Different roles in vaccine passport strategy

The following groups all have a stake in understanding the role digital vaccine passports will play and what they need to do to ensure they achieve widespread adoption when they do emerge:

  • Business executives looking to understand how and under what circumstances they can restart travel and commerce
  • Public sector leaders looking to understand or to be involved in policy and guidance, and in execution initiatives
  • Technology solution providers/vendors looking to develop and implement services or expand partnerships 
  • Consultants or other service providers supporting this market
  • Investors looking to support companies involved in these initiatives

Read more: Will You Require Employees to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Gartner finds 10 success factors for digital health passports, such as COVID-19 digital passports, to secure widescale adoption.

Success factors for wide-scale adoption of vaccine passports

For a digital solution to be a success, it must achieve wide-scale user adoption. These components are required to drive wide-scale adoption:

  1. A compelling use case, describing where and how the digital vaccine passports will be used.
  2. Required use, with policies around when and where vaccine passports will be required, and what exceptions will exist.
  3. Digital passports fit for purpose, such that the technological approach matches the use case.
  4. Ease of use, so that passports are easily adopted and intuitive to use without extensive training.
  5. Contextually relevant, so that the design and content of the digital passport fits the context in which they’ll be used.
  6. “What’s in it for me” benefits that businesses and end users see quickly, from access to restricted places to health-benefit credits.
  7. Trust and willingness, by giving end users a choice whether or not to get a digital vaccine passport. Establish security, privacy and data-sharing requirements to capture and verify user consent.
  8. Available and accessible by using technology and data that can be accessed and shared by anyone who wants it and is authorized to use it.
  9. Standards and interoperability for data and data exchange, such as ISO, Health Level 7 (HL7), laboratory (LOINC) and disease classification (ICD). Comply with privacy and security standards such as HIPAA and GDPR.
  10. Vendors and services operate in an ecosystem of providers offering development, implementation and support.
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