Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Elitism is Vaccine Credentials Passport

 A Vaccine Credential or Passport is an important effort to get society moving again, but it could really result in elitism that we really should not accept.

Vaccine Credentials fundamental use-case 

There are appropriate uses of a Vaccine Credential or Vaccine Passport. I am not arguing against proof of vaccine for International Air travel, or admission requirements for school or college. These have been in place and are working fine. They often are simply self-declarations, or are unprovable printed vaccine forms. These cases also are handled at a pace that allows for exceptions to be made. These are handled at a pace that allows for assistance to be given to achieve the proper vaccine levels. These are successful in spite of the fact that there is no world-wide self-validating Vaccine Credential. These will continue to succeed without a self-validating Vaccine Credential.

Vaccine Credential at scale need

COVID-19 has uncovered a "need" for a self-validating Vaccine Credential. That is a credential that can be used at point-of-entry, that carries TRUE/FALSE level facts, that can be proven to be valid / legitimate, and can be proven is linked to the subject identity.  This all without exposing unnecessary medical or identity facts - #Privacy.

This need comes from the scale, and not the fundamental use-case. As I state above the fundamental use-case is handled today, and that solution could absorb COVID-19 just fine. The fundamental use-case does not need to scale.

So, what is the scale problem? The scale problem is when the fundamental need is applied to ALL public and private gatherings. This includes Trains, Buss, Tram. This includes sporting events, entertainment events, political events. This includes dining, dancing, partying. This includes leisure, work, hotels. This scale applies to everything outside your house... well, it might apply at your own front door when others come visiting. So, you might be the bouncer-at-the-door.

The scale problem is the "bouncer-at-the-door" needs a very fast and accurate true / false fact to allow you into the event/facility; or to reject you.

Vaccine Credentials Considerations

What I am worried about is a technical solution becoming a tool to show elitism. This worry should not be used to prevent the technical solution from being created. I am actively involved in three different efforts to define a Vaccine Credential / Passport. I think it is important to design these solutions as best as possible. They need to address as many requirements as possible. They need to be privacy preserving. They need to work for those without technology. They need to be fast. They need to be robust. They need to be as resistant to falsification as possible.  I am actively engaged (wish I had more time).

What I am worried about is those that can't obtain the COVID-19 vaccine being shut out of participating in society without any ability to plea their case. I am specifically worried about society failing to get these people vaccinated, and the cases where the vaccine can't safely be given. These people are being treated as a lesser-class of people, they are not part of the elite class.

There are activities that are being proposed to requiring a Vaccine Credential to participate that are basic survival. Grocery store, Bus, and other. This is the scale that worries me the most.

Not the solution for vaccine deniers

I am not liking that people are not vaccinating. I certainly want everyone to get a vaccine. I got mine as soon as I could. I don't want to be in the presence of people who willingly refuse vaccine. I simply think that requiring a Vaccine Credential everywhere is not the way to get these people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.  These people will not react well to a Vaccine Credential mandate. These people will dig in harder. A Vaccine Credential is not the solution to vaccine deniers. Some will never be able to be convinced, they will always be a risk across society. Many simply need time to see the safety and effectiveness themselves. Some are needing information and access to the vaccine.

Some legitimate concerns

  • medical conditions that put the subject at risk (allergic reaction)
  • spouse or parent that objects to vaccines (subject would be endanger if vaccinated)
  • police (subject has reason to be arrested)
  • protected-identity (subject needs to stay non-identified. witness protection)
  • no identity available (subject has no formal identification due to age or events)

some reasonable worries

  • concerns with the safety given the "emergency use authorizations". This will eventually pass
  • access to vaccines. The young and healthy have not been allowed to get the vaccine. Some regions are struggling with getting the vaccine, or putting in place the facilities
  • outreach - there are people that have not yet understood the situation or the opportunity
I had a much more exhaustive list, but lost it... so please feel free to comment if you have some other legitimate concerns


I am pointing out a management problem, a problem that technology can't solve. I will continue to work on the technical solution. But I am very concerned about the elitism that will come from having the technical solution, and using it at the scale being proposed.


  1. This article is excellent depth on the risk the vaccine passport becomes a permanent ID system.

    So the ID chip that people think is being injected, is actually caused by them wanting a status symbol that lets them into elite activities.


  2. From your article and Elizabeth's (the link you provided) the missing piece is effective governance that the public (or most of us) will accept and trust. Too many of the candidate organizations (including national governments) to ensure governance lack that trust in 2021.

  3. WHO worry. https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/546712-who-does-not-support-mandatory-vaccine-passports

  4. EFF worry. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/04/no-digital-vaccine-bouncers

  5. an article from WIRED https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-vaccine-registries-are-good-vaccine-apps-are-invasive/

  6. HL7 is developing a technical solution. It would still need the above addressed in policy, procedure, and regulation

  7. EFF analysis of FHIR SMART vaccine credential https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/06/decoding-californias-new-digital-vaccine-records-and-potential-dangers

    Good and accurate details. Overreaction to QR.

  8. EU starts their solution https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/coronavirus/eu-digital-covid-certificate/

  9. https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/07/06/1027770/vaccine-passport-new-york-excelsior-pass/

  10. Now Google. Unclear what the format is. This looks more like them saying Google play is a fine place to carry them. https://developers.googleblog.com/2021/06/google-updates-passes-api-to-save-covid-testing-and-vaccination-information-on-Android-devices.html

  11. And elitism starts. San Francisco bars. https://www.sfgate.com/food/amp/bar-alliance-covid-test-vaccination-proof-required-16340670.php?__twitter_impression=true

  12. Quebec failed... https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/vaccination-passport-safety-security-hacker-1.6155488

    Right standards, based on the HL7 vaccine credential; but lack of PKI policy means anyone can be an issuer.