The Biden administration is coordinating an expansive group of private stakeholders and government agencies looking to create and Covid “vaccine passports” that would prove individual holders have been inoculated.
The effort to roll out vaccine passports comes as restaurants, concert venues, sports teams, and other businesses that have been acutely affected by Covid look to re-open at full capacity in the coming months.
The Washington Post first reported on the Biden administration’s coordination efforts for the programme, citing five unnamed sources.
At least 17 groups and government agencies have begun working on vaccine passport initiatives, the Post reported, which could make it more difficult for the government to streamline the process.
Such passports could allow people to patronise certain parts of restaurants and entertainment venues, use various shared amenities in hotels, and cross-national borders for international travel. Vaccine passports could also have implications for workers, ensuring people employed in service industry jobs are protected by and protective of their patients and co-workers.
Multiple offices within the Department of Health and Human Services have been working on the coordination effort to make such a programme as equitable as possible.
“Our role is to help ensure that any solutions in this area should be simple, free, open-source, accessible to people both digitally and on paper, and designed from the start to protect people’s privacy,” White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said at a press briefing earlier this month.
Mr Biden has set a goal of at least partially vaccinating 200m Americans by the end of his first 100 days in office. The president has speculated that the US could be experiencing a high degree of normalcy by this summer, with things almost completely back to the pre-pandemic normal by Christmas.
The idea behind the passports is that people who have been vaccinated could pull up an app or a file on their smartphones with scannable proof of their identity and Covid vaccine records.
But millions of Americans do not have smartphones, so officials are working on ways for people to obtain printable copies.
The US is just one of several countries and multinational organisations working on vaccine passport programmes.
The EU has promised to produce digital certificates allowing the free flow of people across borders.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), which Mr Biden re-joined on his first day in office after Donald Trump had begun the process of pulling out, is working on a worldwide programme.
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