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Why We Need a Yellow Immunity Passport

The phrase ‘Digital Health Immunity Passports’ is a loaded term. If it hurts you to think of the erosion of civil liberties, human rights and creating a two tier society of have-vaccines and have-nots then instead why not try swapping out the term ‘Immunity Passport’ with ‘Medical Record’. Which is basically what they are.

But the difference this time is that it’s YOUR medical record and YOU get to decide who to share it with and when.

Medical records exist for good reasons and were originally introduced in 1901 by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA. When being operated on by different Doctors in different locations at different times it made sense to have a record of who has had what disease or operation and where and when.

RIP Paper Medical Records 1901-2016

If you think big brother has too much power, here’s a much more frightening idea. As a thought experiment – imagine a world with no medical records. And no passports.

Fast forward to today and you’ll find the NHS since 2016 has spent over £4Bn on digitising medical records. Did you know there 18 NHS approved digital record suppliers offering interfaces to over 6500 surgeries. It’s a mess. Only 5% of people know you can access your medical records digitally. The NHS App and NHS Login works to a degree but when it comes to legacy records it’s still a mess. If you’re unlucky you get this, a scanned in doctors note. Try not to laugh.

The Colour is Yellow. The rest is detail.

The only global record that crosses the political and bureaucratic chasm between medical record and passport is the Yellow Card or more specifically the International Certificate for Vaccination and Prophylaxis (ICVP).

If you travel a lot you will know that Yellow Fever is a problem in 42 African and South American countries. It spreads like Malaria by mosquitos, so there is little threat of contagion in the UK.

To prevent endemic breakouts where mosquitos are a big problem, a Yellow Fever vaccination is mandated by none other than The World Health Organisation. (If you are curious it’s in the International Health Regulations 2005 Annex 6).

195 countries have signed up to an Immunity Passport since the 1960’s when the  Yellow Fever vaccine became largely available.

In the UK the Department of Health oversees the issuing of 150,000 Yellow Fever Cards a year through 3000 Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres under the guidance of Public Health England and The National Travel Health Network and Centre (Nathnac).

The only challenge is not whether the WHO mandated Yellow Fever Card and immunity passport should exist but whether it should still be on a piece of paper with a rubber stamp – or whether it should be modernised. Whisper it quietly – digitised and made available on mobiles. It’s not rocket science but the last time it was modernised was when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. The WHO is great. But the WHO is also very very painfully slow.

With Innovate UK research & development funding – at BlockMark Technologies we built a digital Yellow Card in August 2020, in readiness for later recording a COVID 19 Vaccine. And yes we chose a yellow colour. Because that’s the only colour it could be. And yes it’s mobile, desktop and tablet friendly. And you can still print it off if you really really want to.

What’s with the Colour Yellow?

Yellow is a recurring theme in the medical world. The International Maritime Flag for a ship requiring quarantine – is known as the Quebec or Q Flag is.. Yellow.  It’s pretty simple and visual. And hard to mistake for anything else. It looks like this ..

Q is for Quebec / Quarantine

Nowadays the Q flag means the opposite of what it once did. It now means ‘I have no communicable diseases on board’.  

So we have Yellow Flag, Yellow Fever, Yellow Card. In the immortal words of 90’s pop sensation Cold Play – it’s all yellow.

And yes if you play football and foul badly you get another type of yellow card. You are put on the watchlist. Quarantined. Two yellow cards and you get excommunicated from the tribe with a red card.

It’s like a two tier system. Players who play by the rules and those who don’t. Guess who stays on the pitch.

Yellow is also the colour for fear there’s even a word for it – Xanthophobia. But with Immunity Passports we have nothing to fear except fear itself.

You simply cannot afford to be afraid of an Immunity Passport. If you don’t think quarantine is important then let’s invite all the French rabied dogs, bats and foxes through the channel tunnel. Back in ther real world lets not forget we are a nation of pet lovers. Our pets have immunity passports for travel, so why not their owners?

The Real Challenge

The real challenge of course with Immunity Passports is of course not navigating bioethics, civil liberties, human rights or even violating the principles of legality, necessity or proportionality but simply more practical , As the League of Nations noticed in 1920 -it’s the technical that matter – how to deploy a global immunity passport, how to update them, prevent fakes and in social media, internet enabled world how to maintain privacy.

At BlockMark Technologies with support from Innovate UK , we have rebuilt the Yellow Card and created a Registry Platform than can easily and securely issue Vaccine Certificates. From Yellow Fever to Polio and yes… COVID 19.

See a demo of the Immunity Passport here or contact us to create an account.