Digital Immunity Passports: Ethical, Legal, and Social Lessons Learned for COVID-19
Event Type
Oral Presentations
TimeTuesday, April 132:40pm - 3:00pm EDT
LocationDigital Health
DescriptionAs the COVID-19 pandemic continues and as vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 continue to be administered globally, many entities are seeking to return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle and, at the same time, contain COVID-19 exposure risks. Even as new strains of SARS-CoV-2 are encountered in various countries like the United Kingdom and South Africa, lending the question of whether and for how long current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines will stay effective among the general population, communities and economies strive to reopen and remain as open as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, digital immunity passports have become an attractive option to several entities like employers, governmental authorities, and others seeking to safely return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle as soon as possible. This presentation defines and discusses the current range of digital immunity passport options and discusses the benefits and risks to their implementation. Ethical, legal, and social implications are also discussed and historical examples of how immunity passports have been used and/or abused are provided as cautionary tales and lessons learned. Prior to implementing digital immunity passports, developers, users, and other stakeholders should properly weigh ethical, legal, and social benefits against risks to implementation across varied contexts. Overall, careful attention, resources, and incentives are key to 1) create safeguards and principles to avoid the perpetuation or exacerbation of discrimination and/or social harm that could potentially result from digital immunity passport implementation, 2) ensure that those without equitable access to COVID-19 testing, vaccination, or passport issuance services are not denied access to needed spaces, resources, or services, and 3) encourage “privacy-by-design” in the development of digital immunity passports.