Digital health passports are to be trialled at two separate locations in Britain.
Britons who have received a coronavirus vaccine are to be offered a digital health passport, according to British media reports.
The initiative is a part of a government-funded trial set to take place this month.
The digital passport has been created by biometrics firm iProov and cybersecurity group Mvine and will be rolled out as a free smartphone app. The trial will be managed by local authority public health directors in yet to be agreed locations in the United Kingdom.
The trial hopes to show that digital health passports can help the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) keep track of people that have received the first or second vaccine dose.
The UK’s vaccination programme is now well underway, currently using Pfizer BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines that each require two shots. Controversially, the UK government has mandated that the shots should be given up to 12 weeks apart rather than the recommended three or four weeks in order to more quickly vaccinate the population.
The first Pfizer shot provides around 90% protection and the Oxford-AstraZeneca around 60% against contracting the coronavirus, but crucially this first shot also gives high short term protection against severe disease, therefore reducing the number of hospitalisations and deaths from the virus. In trials it was also discovered that the efficacy of the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was higher if there were more than six weeks between doses.
Mvine first began working on passes to show testing results but has now been given funding to switch to vaccination passports. A UK government science and funding agency has pumped GBP75,000 into the project.
“Originally we started off with this need to prove whether you’ve had an antibody test,” Frank Joshi, Mvine’s founder, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “But it can be equally used to demonstrate whether you’ve been vaccinated.”
Digital health passports are viewed by many to be the future for travel when restrictions begin to lift. In November last year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said it was in the final stages of developing a Covid-19 vaccine passport based around a smartphone app, with a launch slated for “early 2021”.
Several airlines have also been trialling health passports. Qantas boss Alan Joyce went so far as to say that proof of vaccination against Covid-19 would be compulsory on Qantas flights.
Health passports are already being used in countries such as China and India to access public spaces and transport.