Like the 'Excelsior Pass': Philippines eyes digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 21 2021 10:42 AM | Updated as of Jun 21 2021 11:12 AM

Like the 'Excelsior Pass': Philippines eyes digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination 1
Presentation of the new digital COVID-19 vaccination passport COVPASS in Potsdam, Germany, May 27, 2021. Soeren Stache/Pool via Reuters

MANILA - The Philippine government is working on a common digital ID that would serve as proof of an individual's vaccination against COVID-19, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Monday.

Nograles said the Department of Information and Communications Technology is working on a "common vaccination digital ID with QR code" for Filipinos. 

"What we want really is a QR code, digital...The digital vaccination ID card will be very important," he told ANC's Headstart.

Currently, local government units in the Philippines issue cards to individuals who get inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines. The card contains information on the brand of vaccine used, how many doses the person has received and when it was given. The cards vary per city and municipality.

Like the 'Excelsior Pass': Philippines eyes digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination 2
Residents under the A5 category or indigents receive their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in San Juan City on June 15, 2021. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

The Philippines is among several countries that asked the World Health Organization to come up with a standard protocol for a digital "common vaccine passport."

Nograles said the interagency task force on COVID-19 is discussing "what advantages or what sort of incentives or new protocols" will be observed for fully vaccinated individuals. Among the incentives being floated is the waiving of RT-PCR tests for tourist trips, he said.

The task force is also monitoring how other countries are doing vaccine passports. A small group headed by the Department of Foreign Affairs has also been tapped to look into ways how the government can verify the vaccination of those coming in from abroad, he said. 

They are expected to present their proposal within the week.

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The Philippines still bans travelers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, and Oman this month as it aims to keep out the Delta variant of COVID-19.

NY STATE EXCELSIOR PASS

In a separate interview, Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said the Philippines could adapt a system similar to New York state's Excelsior Pass, introduced as the first and only government-issued vaccine passport in the US that assigns a QR code for every individual vaccinated. 

He noted that the electronic record would be difficult to duplicate since each QR code would show when and how many COVID-19 vaccine doses that individual has received. 

"They said they will get this done in the next couple of weeks because a lot of people are complaining...We all need vaccination passports," he said.

He said that in New York, some restaurants refuse entry to people who have not been vaccinated or do not have vaccine passports. 

"It is very convenient. Almost everybody has a cellphone, it is easy and very efficient," he said. 

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As of Sunday, the Philippines has a total of 1,359,015 coronavirus infections, with 57,679 still active. There have also been 23,621 reported deaths and 1,277,715 recoveries.

The country is also rolling out vaccination, with 14 million doses already arriving. Some 7.5 million doses have been administered. According to a monitoring by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group, about 2 million individuals have received their second dose 

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