Globalization and Health


Dec 2, 2023

Geographical and practical challenges in the implementation of digital health passports for cross-border COVID-19 pandemic management: a narrative review and framework for solutions

#tag, #tag

#tag, #tag

The rapid global spread of infectious diseases, epitomized by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, has highlighted the critical need for effective cross-border pandemic management strategies. Digital health passports (DHPs), which securely store and facilitate the sharing of critical health information, including vaccination records and test results, have emerged as a promising solution to enable safe travel and access to essential services and economic activities during pandemics. However, the implementation of DHPs faces several significant challenges, both related to geographical disparities and practical considerations, necessitating a comprehensive approach for successful global adoption. In this narrative review article, we identify and elaborate on the critical geographical and practical barriers that hinder global adoption and the effective utilization of DHPs. Geographical barriers are complex, encompassing disparities in vaccine access, regulatory inconsistencies, differences across countries in data security and users' privacy policies, challenges related to interoperability and standardization, and inadequacies in technological infrastructure and limited access to digital technologies. Practical challenges include the possibility of vaccine contraindications and breakthrough infections, uncertainties surrounding natural immunity, and limitations of standard tests in assessing infection risk. To address geographical disparities and enhance the functionality and interoperability of DHPs, we propose a framework that emphasizes international collaboration to achieve equitable access to vaccines and testing resources. Furthermore, we recommend international cooperation to establish unified vaccine regulatory frameworks, adopting globally accepted standards for data privacy and protection, implementing interoperability protocols, and taking steps to bridge the digital divide. Addressing practical challenges requires a meticulous approach to assessing individual risk and augmenting DHP implementation with rigorous health screenings and personal infection prevention measures. Collectively, these initiatives contribute to the development of robust and inclusive cross-border pandemic management strategies, ultimately promoting a safer and more interconnected global community in the face of current and future pandemics.

Gideon Towett, R. Sterling Snead, Knarik Grigoryan & Julia Marczika

Link to the original publication