Those who want to travel in 2021 may be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, and as with so many things, there'll be an app for that.
CommonPass, an app being developed by The Commons Project and the World Economic Forum, aims to give users a quick and easy way to verify medical records on the go. The app would provide handlers a QR code that, when scanned, could verify a user's vaccination status and other pertinent details of their medical history, according to CBS News.
The goal would be to give travelers a "vaccine passport"—some way to ensure that individuals are safe to sit next to on a plane or making sure they don’t pose a risk while waiting in line at a train platform.
But not all vaccines are created equal. Thomas Crampton, Chief communications officer for the Commons Project, says a vaccine passport could also help keep track of the vaccine travelers have received and from where.
"A point of entry — whether that's a border, whether that's a venue — is going to want to know, did you get the Pfizer vaccine, did you get the Russian vaccine, did you get the Chinese vaccine, so they can make a decision accordingly," Crampton said.
With the travel industry being one of the hardest hit by the spread of COVID-19, CommonPass could provide travel agencies all over the world the ticket they need to get customers back on the road safely.
It's a project that’s a result of a number of partnerships. Companies who have backed the app's development include Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic. Hundreds of healthcare systems in the US have also supported the project, according to ABC news.
This isn't the first time the idea of a vaccine passport has been implemented to help stop the spread of a virus. The New York Times noted that back in the 1880's students were required to show proof of vaccination against smallpox. In the 1960's the World Health Organization began requiring travelers to show a "yellow card" showing proof of travelers' vaccination against smallpox.
Some fifty years later, CommonPass offers a similar concept, but one adapted to a more digital age.
Some experts worry that the design of the app could spiral out of control and be used to collect private information—or worse act as a means by which to control social behavior.
Professor Michel Goodwin, a professor of Law at the University of California, told The New York Times that the app could be used to tell users what they can and can't do in a way that’s larger than preventing the spread of COVID-19.
"Protecting public health has historically been used as a proxy for discrimination," Goodwin said. "That is the real concern—the potential to use these apps as proxies for keeping certain people away and out."
The app, while still a way from being in a finished state, is set to launch in the next few weeks.