It’s been a while since I looked at issues regarding the European Union Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC).
And there are a ton of ramifications and unintended consequences.
Covishield and the EUDCC
When I last looked at the EUDCC, I examined its effect on travel from people outside of the European Union. The question at the time was what would happen to people who were vaccinated with something other than the European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines, thus rendering them ineligible for the EUDCC.
In particular, people who were vaccinated with the Covishield vaccine were not eligible for the EUDCC. Depending upon whom you asked, Covishield is either just the same as the EMA-approved AstraZeneca vaccine (now referred to as “Vaxzervria” in EU-speak), or it has a radically different manufacturing process that disqualifies it from automatic acceptance.
This non-recognition of Covishield has a great impact on African nations, because that vaccine is popular there. However, EUDCC disapproval has been offset by the actions of several individual countries to recognize Covishield as a vaccine. For example, Greece recognizes ten vaccines (including Covishield) as opposed to the EU’s four. Of course, you have to go through additional paperwork to get authorization to enter a specific country.
But Joseph Atick notes that there’s another issue that adversely impacts the ability of Africans to enter Europe.
Linking a vaccination to a person
Assume for the moment that you have received an EU-authorized vaccine. This is only part of the battle, because the act of vaccination has to be tied to you as a person.
And Atick notes one complicating factor in making that link:
One of the biggest barriers to setting up these systems—and one that could greatly complicate digital health certificates – involves traceability, which for an official digital ID means documenting one’s birth event.
In Africa, not everyone has a birth certificate, and many struggle to trace their identity to the birth event.
If you cannot prove to the satisfaction of the European Union (or whoever) that you were the actual person who received a vaccine, then you may face barriers to entering Europe (or wherever).
And what are the ramifications of this?
A digital health certificate has appeal as an efficient and effective way to manage COVID-19 risks. But if we don’t pause now to consider the implications of getting it wrong and look for ways to get it right, these marvellous digital innovations could also be supremely effective at creating a binary world of those who can prove their COVID-19 risk status and those who cannot.
The requirement for a digital identity
Oh, and there’s another issue that Atick didn’t address, but which bears noting.
All of the solutions listed above assume as a given that people will be the owners of a unique, government-authorized digital identity.
As I’ve noted elsewhere, there are people who are fervently opposed to this.
In my country, both some people on the left and some people on the right believe that “governmental digital identity” naturally equates to “governmental digital surveillance,” and that governments shouldn’t be abusing the data that they can obtain from all the vaccinations you get, all the places you travel, all the things you buy, and all the other things that you do.
(Well, except for voting. Some on the right fervently believe that government identities are essential to voting, even if they’re not essential to any other activity.)
But are people truly banned from travel?
So where does this leave the people who cannot prove that they were vaccinated with an authorized vaccine, or perhaps were never vaccinated at all?
In many cases travel for the unvaccinated is not banned, but they have to go through additional hoops to travel. Using one example, unvaccinated U.S. citizens can travel to Austria if they “have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 180 days; or present a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test result procured within 72 or 48 hours of travel.” For more country-by-country specifics as of August 13, click here.
But how will the unvaccinated get to Europe, or anywhere else?
- Some cruise lines won’t take them, or will impose heavy restrictions on the unvaccinated.
- Canada is working on regulations that may (or may not) ban the unvaccinated from airline travel.
- Germany isn’t banning unvaccinated U.S. travelers (right now), but is requiring quarantine.
- United Airlines isn’t requiring passengers to be vaccinated. Employees? That’s another matter.
But on the other hand, a vaccination in and of itself is not a guarantee that you can travel. Norway has a long list of requirements that an incoming person must satisfy, vaccination or not. This isn’t the time for an American to go on a sightseeing tour to Oslo.
So a binary division into the “travels” and “travel nots” may not become a reality. Instead, it will be a gradation of travel allowances and non-allowances, based upon a variety of factors.