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Digital vaccination card via blockchain

The Covid 19 pandemic is putting the traditional immunization card and blockchain in the spotlight. The need for a digital vaccination certificate is enriched by the advantages of a new technology and provides confidence and security.

For example, blockchain technology is not only being used to secure supply chains or verify the cleanliness of surfaces at airports in a forgery-proof manner. It will also become the technological foundation for the upcoming electronic vaccination card. The well-known advantages of a blockchain, such as decentralization and tamper- and fail-safety, are perfect prerequisites for storing sensitive data related to the electronic vaccination card (evaccination card) on it. The Covid 19 pandemic is accelerating digitization and paving the way towards an electronic, privacy-compliant and user-orientedelectronic vaccination card.

The classic vaccination card

What am I vaccinated against and with which drug? How long does the vaccination protection last? Who vaccinated me and when? These questions are all answered in the vaccination card, also called the vaccination record. With the help of an accurate documentation of the vaccinations a person receives over his or her lifetime, the person himself or herself and the attending physician can determine at any time which vaccination is still necessary.

Currently, the standard document is the yellow vaccination certificate according to the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). White vaccination documents are also in circulation, especially among older generations. On the vaccination card are noted name, date and place of birth and place of residence. And, of course, the entries for standard vaccinations such as tetanus, diphtheria and MMR (measles/mumps/rubella combination), vaccinations against viral influenzas such as influenza and other indication and travel vaccinations, for example against rabies or hepatitis A. A new edition published in 2021 will also allow separate documentation of vaccinations against the Covid 19 virus.

Gelber, analoger Impfpass mit Einträgen zum COVID-19-Impfstoff
Classic vaccination certificate with Covid vaccinations entered. (Image: Wikimedia-Commons / Superinoskop)

Ab 2022: Der elektronische Impfausweis

On January 1, 2021, the Patient Data Protection Act came into force, making digital offerings such as the electronic patient file usable. From 2022, the vaccination record will also be stored there. Individual health insurers have already started with model tests in their apps. It is then to be introduced nationwide from 2022: The eImpfpass, an electronic vaccination card, which will become part of the electronic patient file and will be 1:1 similar in content to the WHO's yellow vaccination card. Its use will be voluntary, but with automatic reminders and a traffic light system indicating vaccination status, it will offer several convenient advantages for patients.

The technical framework for the evaccination passport is currently being developed by a consortium led by Cologne-based IoT and blockchain expert Ubirch and technology giant IBM. Blockchain technology plays a very crucial role in this. It solves the challenge of making the vaccination passport accessible from anywhere, while at the same time allowing the data to be stored in accordance with applicable data protection regulations and guaranteeing maximum protection against attacks.

Smartphone mit offener Impfnachweis-App, welche den Impfstatus per QR-Code nachweist.
Digital proof of vaccination via app on smartphone.

Projects: Vaccination card with the blockchain

If you want to see the blockchain-based evaccination passport in action, you don't have to wait until 2021. A look at Altötting in Bavaria is enough to see the potential and advantages of such a solution. There, an electronic, computer-readable vaccination card with a digital key is already being deposited and issued as a hash on a blockchain since the beginning of the year. Again, Ubirch's platform is used, while the blockchain comes from the GovDigital consortium. Vaccinated people gratefully accept the small card, behind which is a blockchain: Of the more than 11,000 people who have been vaccinated, around 90 percent of them have had an electronic vaccination card issued and can thus verify their vaccination status beyond doubt. According to an interview in Wirtschaftswoche, even District Administrator Erwin Schneider, who says he is not necessarily familiar with technology, has become a blockchain fan. In the next few years, more projects using the technology are planned in the region, Schneider added.

Looking abroad, we see some solutions where electronic immunization cards using blockchain are already in operation. In Malaysia and Singapore, immunization status is stored tamper-proof on the blockchain, right down to the traceability of the exact vaccine vial. Korea will launch a simple, secure, and user-friendly immunization app in a few weeks that will be based on blockchain and will comply with international W3C standards.

Will it work without a blockchain?

In short, yes. Even without a blockchain, a digital vaccination card can be implemented, probably even more cost-effectively in the short term. For a vaccination card, all that is needed in the first place is an entry in a database that provides information about whether the person has been vaccinated or not. The database required for this would be a central register and thus an easy target for attacks and hackers. However, the blockchain as a decentralized register offers other advantages in addition to this protection against external attacks. As soon as the electronic vaccination card or the vaccination that has taken place functions as a relevant document in society, for example when a flight is taken or everyday activities can only take place with vaccination, the "trust" factor comes into play. If one trusts the issuing vaccination centers or authorities, this trust is traceable and secured, with simultaneous fail-safety and fast, scalable transactions. We agree with the statement of our Estonian colleagues from Guardtime, who are currently developing an international digital vaccination certificate: "Basically, a solution with the blockchain is more secure."

At TrustCerts, we have combined trust and blockchain and developed our TrustChain. This is designed to meet the specific needs of self-determined identities. Do you have further suggestions or questions about the blockchain use case described here? Write to us! We look forward to the discourse.

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