South Korea turns to blockchain for COVID-19 vaccine passport roll out

South Korea said today it plans to use distributed ledger blockchain technology as part of its “Green Pass” COVID-19 vaccine documentation program for immunized citizens, also known as “vaccine passports.”

According to Reuters, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said the mobile app, which allows international travelers to prove vaccination status, officially launches this month. It will also use blockchain technology as a stopgap against counterfeits.

“The introduction of a vaccine passport or ‘Green Pass’ will only allow those who have been vaccinated to experience the recovery to their daily lives,” Chung said during a government meeting.

The concept behind COVID-19 vaccine passports is somewhat controversial in some countries, given its privacy-impinging nature. But tourism, travel restrictions and the need to protect vulnerable populations have given way to the need to find a balance between lockdowns and regulation.

Doing this requires making certain that people know that their documents and personal information — especially medical information – remain private even as they travel. When blockchain technology is used, no personal data is stored or shared publicly, just the cryptographic proof that a person has been vaccinated that can be verified with the vaccinating authority.

South Korea isn’t the only country to adopt a vaccine passport. For example, China, Israel and the European Union have either already implemented a solution or begun to build their own to allow cross-border travel for vaccinated individuals during the pandemic.

Brazil also indicated plans in September it would begin using blockchain technology to track COVID-19 vaccinations. In a similar move, Singapore developed a blockchain-based solution in February for interoperable health documents, including COVID-19 test results, designed to facilitate cross-border travel.

New York recently rolled out the “Excelsior Pass,” a similar app to South Korea’s Green Pass, which used blockchain technology based on IBM Corp.’s digital health pass technology for COVID-19 vaccination proof. Users need only have a QR code scanned on their smartphone to prove their vaccine status.

This is all part of a potentially growing trend around the world as venues begin to open to the public. Many may start to ask entrants to prove vaccination status before allowing them inside. This is even more important for travel, potentially helping to curb the spread of the pandemic and prevent future upsurges of the disease in the future.

South Korea expanded its vaccine rollout on today for residents 75 and older with the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. About 877,000 first doses of the vaccine have been administered as of Wednesday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

Photo: Pixabay

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