Two of the vaccine trials are coming to an end with both Pfizer and Moderna expected to apply for Emergency Use Authorization to begin distributing and administering their mRNA vaccines. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson won’t be far behind and there are many others after them. By February or March, the nation will be in full swing getting vaccinated from COVID-19. Well, most of it will be. Vaccines are considered the key component to getting this country back to where it was. But how will we know who has been vaccinated and who refused the vaccine?
Ticketmaster has already said that it is considering customers prove they have been vaccinated or have a COVID test 24 to 72 hours before the event to purchase tickets to large events, using a simple health check to verify vaccination status. Airlines and hotels are considering it as a way to offer safe travel. Countries are considering it as a requirement for entry to their country. It would be an easy way to incentivize the nation to get vaccinated. But is it a legal and ethical approach? Do the benefits outweigh the concerns?
Our nation has been through a lot this past year. The pandemic has been one of the worst and has claimed so many lives. We have now reached a point where deaths are not as common as the early days thanks to improved treatments and care. But that has a downside as it increases the strain on health care as patients have longer stays while recovering. Masks do work, but we have gone through a year where some in the public refuse to adhere to the health and safety guidelines based on political ideology.
The vaccines that are coming will help stem the tide of the pandemic by easily providing immunity from the virus. The first two are based on mRNA and work by generating copies of the spike protein that surrounds the coronavirus and are used to attach to healthy cells in our body. By generating these proteins, our bodies also generate the antibodies that attach to the proteins so that when a virus does enter the body, the antibodies are there to essentially neutralize it by clogging up its method of attachment.
Pfizer’s vaccine showed a 90+% effective rate based on interim data. That’s significant because the seasonal flu vaccine we get each year only as a 50-60% effective rate. Moderna’s interim data is expected to be released next week and is expected to have a similar effectiveness rate since it is based on the same approach. Both have started ramping up production of their vaccines and plan to deliver millions to the nation as soon as they are granted an EUA. Health care workers and first responders are expected to be the first to receive the vaccines, followed by those at risk such as the elderly and people with health conditions.
After that, the vaccines will be available to the general public sometime around February or March. Add to that the other vaccines that should be completing their trials and the US could have a large supply of vaccines available to the public to receive. But there now seems to be a problem as recent polls show only half of Americans are willing to take the vaccine. Once again political ideology enters into the mix as some are part of the anti-vaxxer movement and others have a general distrust of anything spearheaded by the government, regardless of the health and safety data supporting it.
If half the nation doesn’t take the vaccine, that still leaves us in a pretty serious situation. By April or May, even if we have mass distribution we will be nowhere near the required level of 70% for herd immunity. So, how can we start getting back to normal as more people are vaccinated and some are not? One way might be to use digital vaccination certificates. These certificates would allow you to easily travel without having to be tested every time before a flight. They would allow you to purchase concert tickets, stay at hotels, and even travel to other countries. They would help you in other ways such as visiting the doctor.
The information could be easily gathered from health records and doesn’t have to reveal anything other than the fact that you have received the required doses of the vaccine and have had ample time for antibodies to develop. A national registry could be established tied to your health records that could contain key identifier information you already share such as passport IDs, KTNs, drivers license numbers, etc. Airlines could check the registry and clear you to fly without requiring a COVID test of you before flying.
You could present a 2D barcode for entry into airports or other large venues that could be scanned by the same scanners Ticketmaster uses now. It will allow these companies that depend on large crowds or close quarters the ability to reopen more easily. It would also create incentive for people to get vaccinated as it gives them easy entry into concerts or other venues. It would not bar others as they could still gain entry, but only after taking a required COVID test and provide the results of the test. Even that could be a part of the registry.
It’s just a thought, but maybe an easier way to get this country and world reopened safely.