Vaccination passport: European regulators recall the rules

Health passport initiatives are multiplying around the world to support the lifting of restrictions linked to the Covid 19 pandemic. The European Union is not left out: the Commission presented in March a first draft of a vaccination passport, making it possible to certify that the carrier has been vaccinated against Covid 19, justifies a negative PCR test or has already been contaminated by the virus in the past.

The project is currently on the agenda of the European Parliament and the Council, which must decide on the initial proposal of the committee. The member states must also agree on the technical methods of implementing this solution, in particular by agreeing on the specifications of the eHealth framework. The issue of interoperability, but also of data protection, is thus at the center of the debates. The EDPS, the cooperation body of the European data protection authorities, gave his opinion on the committee’s draft yesterday.

The subject is indeed closely linked to the issue of personal data, the creation of a passport affects health data which is considered sensitive data and therefore particularly regulated by law. The commission’s plan provides that the certificate will use personal data (name, date of birth) as well as data relating to the bearer’s vaccination.

No European database

For the EDPS, the principle of a vaccination passport does not pose a problem, as long as it respects the legal framework in force in terms of the protection of personal data. The European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski thus recalls that “the proposal does not allow – and must not lead to – the creation of any kind of central database of personal data at EU level . The EDPS will ensure that the passport project respects the principle of non-discrimination, and recalls that many points on the effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing transmission remain to be clarified. Consequently, the EDPS considers that the Proposal should “establish clear and precise rules governing the scope and application of the certificate and impose appropriate safeguards” in order to limit the risk of discrimination. In other words, it should be clarified in what context exactly this passport may be required.

The EDPS also intends to ensure that Member States cannot access the data of this vaccination passport once the pandemic has ended. The commission’s proposal already specifies that this is a temporary measure, which will be suspended once the WHO announces the end of the state of health emergency.

Many countries are interested in setting up a vaccination passport, which could facilitate border crossings and in the medium term help revive tourism, a sector severely affected by the pandemic. In the United States, where the vaccine passport is currently only a draft, the State of Florida has declared itself opposed to this principle considered dangerous for individual freedoms.

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