COVID Vaccines – Certificates/Passports/Customs/Cross-border Movement/Regulations
Press release 1 June 2021
Today, the EU Digital COVID Certificate has reached another important milestone with the go-live of the technical system at EU level, which allows to verify certificates in a secure and privacy-friendly way.
2 June 2021
4 June 2021
During the seventh meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on 15th April 2021, the Emergency Committee’s advice to the WHO secretariat stated that the WHO secretariat should:
“Continue to update the WHO interim position on the considerations regarding requirements of proof of vaccination and to produce interim guidance and tools related to standardization of paper and digital documentation of COVID-19 travel-related risk reduction measures (vaccination status, SARS-CoV-2 testing and COVID-19 recovery status) in the context of international travel.”
Given this recommendation from the IHR Emergency Committee meeting, the Smart Vaccination Certificate Secretariat has expanded the scope of the initiative to develop guidance that includes SARS-CoV-2 testing and COVID-19 recovery status. Accordingly, the Smart Vaccination Certificate specification will be renamed as the “Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates (DDCC)” specification. The resulting guidance will be published in a series of three separate documents, which will guide Member States on how to digitally document COVID-19 vaccination status, SARS-CoV-2 test results, and COVID-19 recovery status. These guidance documents will include critical components such as the minimum datasets, expected functionality of digital systems, and preferred terminology code systems. They will also include a section on national digital architecture, recognizing that Member States are still expected to decide how they want to implement these systems. The DDCC specifications will include an HL7 FHIR Implementation Guide (IG), including example software implementations.
These guidance documents will make no reference to the specific circumstances under which these certificates should be used. Such guidance will be made available in separate guidance documents published by WHO (e.g. DG temporary recommendations to States Parties after IHR Emergency Committees; WHO’s interim guidance documents on considerations for the implementation of public health and social measures; WHO’s interim guidance documents on considerations for a risk-based approach to international travel in the context of COVID-19; etc.).
Additionally, in line with the change in scope, WHO DDCC specifications will not include a section on global architecture for a Global Health Trust Framework. At point in this time, WHO does not intend to implement a Global Health Trust Framework to store the digital public keys of members states, to facilitate the validation and verification of digitally signed COVID-19 certificates (e.g., vaccination certificates, SARS-CoV-2 test certificates, and COVID-19 recovery status certificates) across borders.
WHO acknowledges the importance of a Global Health Trust Framework, however, the DDCC guidance will not include details of a technical architecture for a Global Health Trust Framework. The scope and technical approach for an eventual WHO Global Health Trust Framework will be informed through further consultation with Member States, recognizing there are implications beyond the COVID-19 pandemic-related use cases. For the purposes of the use cases included in the DDCC, Member States and regional networks can establish trust via bilateral or multilateral agreements with other Member States, or join other existing multinational or regional trust frameworks, as needed.
Furthermore, WHO understands the importance of the need to digitize the paper-based International Certificate for Vaccination and Prophylaxis (i.e. Yellow card) over time and has decided to take a longer-term view in this respect to examine the different technical possibilities.
The scope and technical requirements for the Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates (DDCC) is no longer aligned with the remit of the Smart Vaccination Certificate working group when it was established; thus, the “Smart Vaccination Certificate working group” in its current form will be dissolved. WHO would like to thank every member of this working group for their respective inputs and contributions to the work done so far, to achieve the Smart Vaccination Certificate: Release Candidate 1 specification.
As this work will remain a Member State-driven process, WHO will continue to engage Member States and representatives of partner agencies regarding the DDCC specifications document.