Health

Members states agree on technical specifications for EU-wide vaccine passport

Plans for EU-wide “Digital Green Certificates” have moved a step forward, with member states agreeing on the main technical specifications for the plans.

The certificates are intended to facilitate free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing proof that a person has either been vaccinated, received a negative test result or recovered from the virus. 

Member state representatives in the eHealth Network, a voluntary network connecting national authorities, have agreed on guidelines describing the main technical specifications for the implementation of the system.

The guidelines cover data structure and encoding mechanisms, including the QR code, which will ensure that both digital and paper certificates can be verified across the EU.

They also describe the EU gateway set up by the European Commission to allow sharing of electronic signature keys so the authenticity of Digital Green Certificates can be verified. No personal data of certificate holders will pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary for verification.

Finally, the guidelines describe reference implementations for software to issue Digital Green Certificates; a reference app to verify certificates; and a template for a wallet app for citizens to store them. Reference implementations will be open source and available by mid-May.

The next step on the technical side is the set-up of national infrastructure, the roll-out of national solutions for issuing, verifying and storing Digital Green Certificates, and the set-up of the EU gateway. 

After a piloting phase in May, the EU gateway should be ready in June for member states to connect. 

WHY IT MATTERS

In order for the Digital Green Certificates to be rolled-out by June, the technical implementation has to advance in parallel to the legislative process. This is a crucial step for the establishment of the necessary infrastructure at EU level.

THE LARGER CONTEXT 

Meanwhile in the UK, transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the NHS app will be used to demonstrate whether British citizens have had the COVID vaccine, or tested negative for the virus, before travelling abroad. Shapps said he was “working internationally with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised.”

ON THE RECORD 

Thierry Breton, commissioner for internal market, said: “These guidelines, adopted unanimously by national experts, show member states’ commitment and readiness and will provide them with the specifications necessary for a quick implementation.”

Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety, said: “This is an important step towards making the Digital Green Certificates a reality for citizens by the summer. With vaccinations taking place at an increasing pace across the EU, we are working relentlessly with member states as we have committed to establish this infrastructure in an ambitious timeframe.”

Didier Reynders, commissioner for justice, said: “We are on track towards our goal of having the certificate in place by June – to enable Europeans to travel safely this summer with minimum restrictions.”

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication. 

 

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