The solution would allow vaccine information to be uploaded and securely stored (Courtesy: Sandia International, Inc.).

Coronavirus

Local Tech Firm Says It Has a Solution to the Vaccine Passport Dilemma

Governments, stadiums, and other venues are already beginning to require proof of vaccination.

Arlington-based Sandia International says it has developed a solution to recent questions surrounding vaccine passports, including those surrounding privacy, verification, data security, and authentification.

The Centers for Disease Control’s recent announcement that fully vaccinated individuals need not socially distance or wear masks was welcome news for many who wish to return to normalcy. Still, it creates a whole new dilemma for employers or businesses with in-person customers: How can businesses know who has and hasn’t been vaccinated?

For employers, the question becomes one of privacy. While employers could probably require employees to be vaccinated if they felt it was a job necessity under the disaster declaration, most have chosen not to require it.

International travel has become much more complicated as countries seek to limit the spread of the disease, even in its waning days. There has been much debate about the so-called “vaccine passport,” which would be helpful to those wishing to contain the virus but has been criticized as an infringement on civil liberties.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the scar caused by early smallpox vaccinations was used as proof of immunization. Employers in the early 20th century made proof of smallpox vaccination required for employment. Many now, however, struggle with concerns surrounding privacy and access.

Still, countries are beginning to require them for international travel, and some large sports arenas say they won’t allow guests in without proof of vaccination. Questions remain around which document will be sufficient and how that data can be stored, accessed, and protected. The UN has requested that the vaccine passports be free and widely available, but so far, there hasn’t been any international standard.

Sandia International hopes to step into this market gap, providing SMART Health Cards which store encrypted vaccination records on technology that is essentially a more secure version of a QR code.

The company works with finance, education, health, and government organizations to verify physical and digital data. The company’s vaccine technology allows a vaccinated individual to receive a code that can be printed or stored digitally and can be accessed online or offline as needed. When accessed, the code brings up a photo of the individual and other verification data, making it much more difficult to fake than a receipt. 

Once the consumer is vaccinated, the code can be generated at a point of enrollment facility designated by public health officials, such as a pharmacy or clinic where the vaccination is verified, a picture taken, and personal information stored. It is converted into a digital code, then hospitals, airports, stadiums, or other venues could be equipped with scanners or apps to read the code and verify the information.

Unlike a QR code, this would not require internet access and does not interact with any cloud technology where the information could be stolen. 

Sandia is looking for partners in the private and public sectors for a trial of their solution. “We are asking just about every area of official control to let us make a pilot,” said the company’s president, Alexander Ayanru. “We have contacted Tarrant County and Dallas County to do it free of charge so they can find out if that’s something they would like to use.”

Ayanru sees potential for the technology amongst large employers and cruise ships and hopes to partner with UPS stores and pharmacies for the enrollment process. “We saw this opportunity to incorporate our decades of digital experience with SMART technology solutions for government use with increasing fraud protection through non-digital storage for this very sensitive vaccine authentication,” he said.

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