Universal Vaccination Passports Must Have a Digital and Physical Element
Europe Fintech

Do Universal Vaccination Passports Need a Digital and Physical Element?

Any Universal Vaccination Passport solution will need to have both a digital and physical element or it will not be fully accessible according to Martin Ruda, Group MD at the TALL Group of Companies. His warnings follow the announcement of a number of trials of domestic and international digital solutions which are mainly focussed on proprietary apps and smartphone technology.

Martin explains: “The key to having a Universal Passport Solution is that it can be used by everyone, everywhere. Existing solutions being put forward all rely on countries having digitised medical records, which many do not, and require the vaccine certificate to be accessed on a smartphone that not everyone has. Little thought has gone into having a secure physical document beyond the use of a QR code which will work equally well, if robustly encrypted, on a secure document as well as a mobile phone screen.

“A successful solution will need to provide secure connectivity to a tangible, and universally accepted document that is verified against the core authorities’ data, in our case the NHS.”

His comments come as concerns are being raised in Israel, who have almost completed its vaccination programme, about the ease of getting a forged vaccine certificate. According to media reports, a black market for counterfeit vaccination certificate is already thriving on Telegram, where more than 100,000 users have joined groups that offer the forgeries at a price.

However, Martin is confident that the technology needed for a strong physical solution for this already exists.

“Concerns around fraudulent documentation in developing countries is commonplace, one example being the risks perceived around the forging and counterfeiting of ballot papers in national and local elections. Our secure printing solutions support the requirements of the Ugandan government to address this, and closer to home the use of encrypted QR codes protect the UK’s cheque payments industry in its move from paper to digital cheque clearing. This technology can readily be used to create a small physical vaccine passport that immutably supports and integrates with a digital solution that we have the capability to deliver.

“Our strategic partnership with Digital Cognate has helped us solve the issues regarding interoperability, integration and absolute trust in the digital source. As a result, we are hoping to get a place at the table to discuss this with UK government and urge them not to try and reinvent the wheel. We have developed the necessary technology and it is tried and tested!”

UK Vaccine Passports

The need for a medical passport has been a topic hotly discussed by politicians, as in theory, it is a simple solution to enable people to travel abroad and visit different venues across the UK, free of worry about contracting the virus. However, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, has stated that in order for a passport scheme to be introduced, everyone must have had the vaccine first:

“You might only be able to implement a thorough-going vaccination passport scheme even if you wanted such a thing in the context of when absolutely everybody had been offered a vaccine.”

The scheme would not only benefit travellers. It could be applied to smaller things like simply going to the pub. When questioned on this, Johnson said, “That’s the kind of thing that may be up to individual publicans.”

The Guardian has illustrated how a possible digital vaccination passport would work in the workplace:

  1. Using an app, take a photo of your face and of your government-approved ID. The app matches the two to verify your identity, and can also detect whether the ID is fake.
  2. Get an antigen or antibody test to establish whether you have had coronavirus and are immune.
  3. At work you open the app at reception and take a picture of your face. This generates a QR code. This is scanned by the receptionist and confirms whether you have immunity or not.
  4. The receptionist verifies that the photo of you on the app matches your face, with the on-app image only visible for a short time. If your ID matches and you have immunity, you can enter the workplace.


  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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