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World Health Organization Expanding Vaccine Passport Program Globally

WHO officials will build upon the EU system used during the pandemic to track vaccine compliance

The World Health Organization (WHO) and European Commission have partnered to establish a global vaccine passport system to track individuals and allow authorities to better manage travel restrictions in the event of a future health crisis.

The WHO will use the EU’s controversial COVID-19 passport system as a building block for a new system intended for worldwide use.

“Building on the EU’s highly successful digital certification network, WHO aims to offer all WHO Member States access to an open-source digital health tool, which is based on the principles of equity, innovation, transparency and data protection and privacy,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said in a statement with other global officials. “New digital health products in development aim to help people everywhere receive quality health services quickly and more effectively.”

During the pandemic, the EU system used an app that logged a person’s vaccination records, as well as documentation on negative tests and previous infections.

Known commonly as the “immunity pass” or “health pass,” the EU Digital Covid Certificate used a QR code displayed on a phone, tablet, or paper that allowed border officials, or others charged with accepting or denying a person’s entry into a country or establishment, the ability to determine one’s vaccination status.

“With 80 countries and territories connected to the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate, the EU has set a global standard,” Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, said in the statement. “The EU certificate has not only been an important tool in our fight against the pandemic, but has also facilitated international travel and tourism. I am pleased that the WHO will build on the privacy-preserving principles and cutting-edge technology of the EU certificate to create a global tool against future pandemics.”

During a press conference announcing the plan to expand the health passport system, the WHO Director-General said the system will add an international certificate of vaccination, routine immunization cards, and international patient summaries.

The official webpage for the Global Digital Health Certification Network says that the system may also include verification of prescriptions across borders and certification of public health professionals.

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