coronavirus vaccine

Dissecting the Privacy Concerns of a Vaccine Passport

NBC 7 Responds looked at some privacy issues surrounding the discussed "vaccine passport"

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A "vaccine passport" could be a way to help open up international travel, but some people are concerned about the security of their personal information. Privacy experts say it can be protected.

"There are ways to make that happen," said James Lee with the Identity Theft Resource Center. "There are ways to make it private, there are ways to make it secure."

The coronavirus pandemic made international travel drop 70% last year compared to the same parts of 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association. Travel could pick back up in 2021 as more people are vaccinated.

"You know most of Europe, most of Asia, elsewhere, this vaccine passport is likely the stepping stone to reopening international tourism," said Scott Keyes of Scott's Cheap Flights.

Finding out who is vaccinated is one challenge to resuming travel pre-pandemic. The IATA estimates that total travel for 2021 might still be only half of what it was in 2019. A vaccine passport might help countries feel safer about opening up to tourism.

Lee said the best way to create the passport would be a public/private partnership.

"Where you have a government that is focused on the privacy and security of their citizens and the private sector, which is focused on how to make it operational and efficient," said Lee. "We are already in a world of electronic health records anyway."

NBC 7's Consumer Bob looks into whether a vaccine "passport" system could open the gates to international travel.

Lee says the real question is how quickly could a vaccine passport be made.

"It may be by the time you get all that done the need for it has passed," said Lee.

Some people are concerned about the security of their personal information and having health records available on their own devices. However, Lee said digitizing health records has already been the norm for more than 10 years.

"The private sector has them, the government has them," said Lee. "What we should be focusing on is how can they be better utilized and enhance the security, enhance the privacy, that already exists today."

When you finally get your COVID-19 vaccine, you may be tempted to celebrate by posting a pic of your vaccine card on social media. Resist that urge. LX Host Nik Z talked with Sandra Guile of the International Association of Better Business Bureaus about how this could make you vulnerable to identity theft and other scams.

Whenever you are vaccinated, a copy of that immunization record is usually sent to a secured database in the county you are vaccinated in. It contains the same information same your paper record has such as your name, date of birth, and location.

The white piece of paper you get after being vaccinated against COVID-19 is secure, but also could be lost.

"That piece of paper has a little bit of privacy," said Lee. "If you show it to somebody that's the only person who has access to it and it has a little bit of security."

Lee isn't against creating the vaccine passport, but said it should be done quickly and using systems already in place.

"Let's take the best the private sector has to offer, let's take the best the public sector has to offer, and marry them together," said Lee.

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