Reps from IBM and Telus speak openly on challenges of Vaccine QR Code system
by Madalene Arias
EAIGLE Founder and CEO, Amir Hoss hosted a webinar with Susan Wooldridge, Executive Director of Global Health Marketing at Telus and Glenn Gale, Director of IBM Watson Health to discuss the various challenges brought by the national vaccine passport system.
EAIGLE launched its interactive proof of vaccination platform on August 31st, 2021.
Following an initial screening protocol, the system generates a unique QR code which users can then access through their mobile devices for the wellness screener to scan on site for entry to a facility.
The QR code corresponds to the information contained in the user’s proof of vaccination document; specifically, the user’s name, date of birth, date of vaccination and whether they’ve had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Users upload this proof of vaccination at the beginning of the screening process.
It seems simple enough, but there are still some unresolved details. As Hoss put it, large manufacturing companies can have anywhere between 50,000 to 500,000 employees working on the floors of their facilities. Most manufacturing employees are not known to be tech savvy.
Hoss also pointed out that accurate collection of this data would be costly and labour intensive. Corporations operating in different provinces have taken various approaches to collecting this data as there is no clear federal mandate to follow.
Currently, people across Canada hold proof of vaccination in various forms including QR codes, paper or photographs saved to mobile devices.
In response to this, Gale stated that a more efficient system would become clear over time, and that the most important element is that people have control of this proof in terms of how and when they share it.
“If an employer decides to collect the data, then they become the issuer and the holder. In our country we have an implicit and implied consent for sharing your health information,” said Gale.
He also added that a whole different set of rules and regulations apply to entities that hold health information as there are auditing requirements they must fulfill.
“The question is how do we find that balance between protecting the individual’s right to privacy and the employer’s right to safety?” said Gale.
According to Wooldridge, a system whereby citizens must provide proof of vaccination should not imply a breach of data or privacy as verification does not require retention of data.
“That technology should be just a mechanism to be able to check with a trusted source of data which is where it is held. The person at these organizations who is verifying those credentials should not be storing them. There is no breach,” said Wooldridge.
Jurisdictional problems arise for manufacturers operating facilities in other countries which have their own national and local standards.
“You secure the workplace for the good of citizens and the sake of being compliant to the country. You also do it because the implications of not having a healthy workforce or a safe, secure and healthy workplace means that you’ve got a burden of cost that exists inside of an organization,” said Wooldridge.
But according to Gale, the QR code system is promises to provide coherence and mobility, at least interprovincially for Canadians.
What this requires is a central repository of information or “trusted source,” as Wooldridge previously stated, to which different organizations can connect from wherever they are for verification purposes.
“It’s going to be a hybrid system for a while. It’s new, it’s fluid, it’s got to be dynamic,” said Gale.
“What we are doing is establishing the industry standards, which is the right thing to do, so that inter-operability should be possible across the country.”
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