Everybody wants the economy to reopen. Like really reopen. Movie theaters open. Indoor dining reopened. A loud, hot concert reopened.* It is going to take awhile to get there, but if we do, we will likely be carrying around ‘digital health passports‘ documenting our immunological status.**
The American public is skeptical about a coronavirus vaccine. Given how bad our national response to the pandemic has been this not surprising. And anti-vaxxers, who were vocal before the pandemic, are not going away.
Sooner, rather than later, those views are going to get tested in the marketplace of ideas. Two vaccines now seem to be on track towards FDA approval. With Pfizer the first on deck to file with the FDA.
In a perfect world, messaging from elected officials and public health officials would be sufficient to convince the vast majority of people to get one of the forthcoming vaccines. It will likely take incentives for some people to get a jab.
It’s already standard practice for schools to require vaccinations for students. But what about businesses? The one thing that pandemic has shown us that for a wide swath of industries you need customers to feel sale.
There is no industry that needs a robust return of in-person patrons that live concerts. That is why what Ticketmaster is working on is so interesting. Dave Brooks at Billboard writes:
Ticketmaster has been working on a framework for post-pandemic fan safety that uses smart phones to verify fans’ vaccination status or whether they’ve tested negative for the coronavirus within a 24 to 72 hour window.
In practice, very few people are going to want to get tested for the coronavirus on an ongoing basis to keep their digital health passport up-to-date. Which means there is a big incentive to get vaccinated for the coronavirus.
The technology has a number of moving parts. It would require being able to link a ticket with a person and that person with a verified vaccination record, which is no small feat. It gets even more complicated when you recognize that the first vaccines approved will require a two-shot protocol.
What this amounts to is a digital health passport. You can easily see how something like this could become standard practice for airlines. Frankly any business that involves putting a bunch of people in an enclosed space, well ventilated or not, would benefit from having its patrons feel secure enough to attend.
However, the best laid plans don’t always work. At the beginning of the pandemic we were promised contact tracing apps on our phones. That has not worked out well. Technology is not always a panacea.
The speed at which at which truly novel vaccines have been produced is truly remarkable. There truly is light at the end of the tunnel, but we shouldn’t let our guards down.
As we enter the holiday season there is very little good news on the ground when it comes to the pandemic. Case counts are rising. Hospitalizations are rising. People are still dying in record numbers. So please be careful. Cancel Thanksgiving.
The existence of an effective vaccination means we should be MORE careful now about the virus, not less. We could see social norms, which are helping to reduce infection, fall by the wayside as the vaccine rolls out.
Behavioral issues aside, we still need to be concerned about how the vaccine gets distributed. It will be a remarkable feat getting vaccine distributed throughout the country, and world, and administered.
The novel coronavirus has been with us a year now, and we still have a ways to go. A lot of things need to go right in the roll out of an effective coronavirus vaccine. People actually need to get vaccinated. And businesses will need to verify their customers have taken it. Otherwise will not get back to any semblance of normalcy. So stay safe until then.
**Wouldn’t it be cool if our ‘digital health passports’ looked as cool as Norway’s new passports?