Digital vaccination card via blockchain – How does it work? Is it the answer to Covid vaccine passports?
The Covid 19 pandemic is putting the traditional immunization card and blockchain in the spotlight. The need for digital proof of vaccination is enriched by the benefits of a new technology, providing trust and security.
For example, blockchain technology will not only be used to secure supply chains or verify the cleanliness of surfaces at airports in a tamper-proof way. It will also become the technological foundation for the upcoming electronic vaccination card. The well-known advantages of a blockchain, such as decentralization and tamper- and fail-safety, are perfect prerequisites for storing sensitive data related to the electronic vaccination card (evaccination card) on it. The Covid 19 pandemic is accelerating digitization and paving the way towards an electronic, privacy-compliant and user-oriented electronic vaccination card.
Blockchain-based, highly secure electronic vaccination cards will be available in the coming years. The Covid 19 pandemic is shaping the future of digital data storage and security. As one of the most relevant drivers of digitization processes, it is fuelling the demand for accurate, user-friendly and reliable solutions in the veterinary field.
Covid 19 is also raising public awareness about animal health issues related to biological threats with a big impact on human health. It is also stimulating younger people to become involved in animal welfare and care. The blockchain can help connect people who care about animal welfare with veterinarians by enabling – instead of only collecting – information from them.
In the field of veterinary medicine, the risks associated with new diseases are constantly changing. For example, zoonoses have emerged as a significant health risk for humans and animals. With a global population growth and an increasingly affluent society, we need to support and protect people in every possible way.
VAHUS is an association that promotes awareness about zoonoses by informing the public about what measures can be taken to prevent them. It provides information to people who want to take responsibility for their own health by protecting themselves from biological threats through biosecurity measures.
Projects: Vaccination card with the blockchain
If you want to see the blockchain-based evaccination card in action, you don’t have to wait until 2021. A look at Altötting in Bavaria is enough to see the potential and benefits of such a solution. There, an electronic, computer-readable vaccination card with a digital key is already being deposited and issued as a hash on a blockchain since the beginning of the year. Again, Ubirch’s platform is used, while the blockchain comes from the GovDigital consortium. Vaccinated people gratefully accept the small card, behind which is a blockchain: Of the more than 11,000 people who have been vaccinated, around 90 percent of them have had an electronic vaccination card issued and can thus verify their vaccination status beyond doubt. According to an interview in Wirtschaftswoche, even District Administrator Erwin Schneider, who says he is not necessarily familiar with technology, has become a blockchain fan. In the next few years, more projects using the technology are planned in the region, Schneider added.
If we look abroad, we see some solutions where electronic immunization cards using blockchain are already in operation. In Malaysia and Singapore, immunization status is stored in the blockchain in a tamper-proof manner, right down to the traceability of the exact vaccine vial. Korea will launch a simple, secure, and user-friendly vaccination app in a few weeks, which will be based on blockchain and comply with international W3C standards.
At first glance, one might assume that blockchain technology could cause great difficulties for the electronic vaccination card. In reality, it makes it much safer and more secure than conventional methods. A decentralized system is not only much more reliable but also can provide proof of the authenticity of all data – from the date on which information was stored to its integrity and correctness. The technical details are the following:
The hash is a cryptographically generated string made up of a given number of zeroes and ones. It is an abbreviation for a uniquely generated hash value. In the case of blockchain, it is a digital fingerprint of a piece of data. In order to produce this hash value from the data, one must perform an extremely complex mathematical operation. The data used to generate the hash value can be almost arbitrarily large.
The hash values are used for identifying and safeguarding identity documents or other sensitive data – including vaccination cards. With the help of a blockchain, generated hash values can be checked by third parties at any time. They thus provide 100 percent certainty that information remains unaltered and intact even ten years after its creation without being saved in other central databases or servers that are vulnerable to attacks.
However, it is not easy to understand how blockchain technology works. Also, people who were previously unfamiliar with this technology tend to be very skeptical about its safety. Of course, this is understandable. As the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) itself points out in an information sheet on the topic: “A special feature of blockchain technology is its high degree of immutability. This means that an alteration of the stored data or a malicious transaction becomes detectable with a high rate of certainty and can be traced back to the point at which it took place. However, this can also be used to the advantage of hackers and those who are looking to circumvent the rules.”
It is highly unlikely that a blockchain will replace conventional vaccination cards any time soon. However, blockchain technology has great potential for the future with regard to safeguarding and verifying digital vaccination cards – or at least their data. The technology not only makes it possible to safely store all information about vaccinated people in a decentralized database; it also allows for the verification of this information by third parties. In the future, more countries may join Germany in using this technology: Singapore and Malaysia have already begun using blockchain applications in record keeping and tracing.
Key takeaways in bullet points
- The blockchain technology is a decentralized database that verifies the identity of users and stores data in a secure manner.
- So far, it has primarily been used in the financial services sector.
- The use of blockchain technology in the health care sector is expected to increase in the future.
- Two main drivers are responsible for this: on the one hand, a general tendency toward increased digitalization; on the other hand, increased security concerns as well as political pressure to enhance digitalization processes. This may point toward great future potential for blockchain technology in Germany’s healthcare system.
- Assessments of blockchain technology and its place in the health care system in Germany are partly speculative. For this reason, the information is condensed and does not provide a complete overview of all relevant facts and issues.
- Blockchain technology is not only a promising innovation with regard to archiving vaccination cards or patient data on electronic health records; it also has great potential with regard to safeguarding and verifying document data or other sensitive information.
- The blockchain technology will be used for safeguarding digital vaccination cards (technical information and implementation example) …
- …and, in the future, may be used to safeguard medical and health records in general. This could also include the vaccination card.
- Blockchain technology can also be applied to validate the data stored in a digital vaccination card by third parties (FQS).
- Another application example: Using blockchain technology provides the opportunity to verify patient information on electronic health records or poison control centers.
- In Germany, only two private firms are currently using blockchain technology for safeguarding medical data – and both cater to doctors. There is little demand from patients for blockchain applications at this time (interview with ITHK).