Ada Lovelace Institute launches review into digital vaccine passports and health status apps

The evidence review and expert deliberation will examine ethical issues, risks, and benefits.
By Tammy Lovell
10:03 am

An evidence review led by the Ada Lovelace Institute will examine practical and ethical issues around digital vaccine passports and health status apps. 

The review, launched this month, will include a series of expert panels, an open call for evidence and an expert body chaired by Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery to establish recommendations and open questions.

The project will build upon the institute’s rolling research on the societal implications of COVID related technologies. An open call for evidence ends on 19 February 2021. 


There have been repeated calls for documentation that verifies attributes such as a COVID test results or vaccination status, to grant social privileges.

The institute’s review aims to provide a body of evidence to provide guidance to the UK and other national governments on where to focus regulatory attention.


Vaccine passports and status apps are the next emerging COVID-19 related technology globally, as governments begin to roll-out mass vaccination programmes

British firm V-Health launched a passport for air travel last year and a UK prototype immunity passport developed by Mvine and iProov recently entered the live testing stage.

Politicians and officials in the UK, Ireland, Singapore and Taiwan, among others, have shown interest in the idea. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is recruiting experts for vaccine certification and collaborating with Estonia to develop a Smart Vaccination Certificate consortium and private airline companies have begun to develop prototypes.


Prof Sir Montgomery, professor of health care law at University College London and chair of Oxford University Hospitals NHSFT, said: “An infrastructure of digitally facilitated personal risk profiling might emerge that, once established, may become a permanent part of our social and global fabric. This generates two big direct risks from a certification regime.

“The first is undesirable consequences associated with the sharing of private health data with multiple unconnected and unregulated parties on an individuals’ employability, insurability, social status and other important aspects of social participation. Second, segregating or limiting rights and freedoms on the basis of health status can exacerbate inequalities and compound the already disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on marginalised communities.

“These risks may not be insurmountable, but it is unquestionable that careful thought is needed, alongside policy instruments to mitigate inequalities like new laws or guidance, the right technical format, among other protections, which is why I am pleased to be chairing the expert panel as part of this vital work led by the Ada Lovelace Institute.”

Carly Kind, director, Ada Lovelace Institute, said: “I am pleased that the Ada Lovelace Institute, with Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery and an interdisciplinary group of experts from public health, law, sociology, epidemiology and other domains, is leading this work, which will provide a vital body of evidence to help society understand how these systems should be used.”


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