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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

You've received a coronavirus vaccination — but can you prove it? The answer to that question will help determine how the global economy functions for the next few years.

Why it matters: The federal government will probably neither mandate nor encourage digital immunity passports or other proofs of vaccination. But privately-operated digital certificates are already being developed — and U.S. law means that anybody who gets vaccinated here should be able to obtain the proof they need.

The big picture: Your employer has a clear interest in knowing whether you've been vaccinated, as do the immigration staff in any foreign country you want to visit. Many workers, from nursing-home aides to opera singers, have a clear desire and even need to be vaccinated before doing their jobs. Which means they'll need some kind of proof of vaccination.

  • What they're saying: "Those who get vaccinated deserve more freedom," wrote the FT's John Gapper last month. Private companies "should be allowed, even encouraged, to protect customers and employees from harm."
  • There's also an "urgent need to restore confidence in travel and mobility," says Paul Meyer, CEO of the Commons Project, a group attempting to build a global platform for proof-of-vaccination apps.
  • The other side: The federal government "should discourage the use of vaccination cards or apps for virtually any purpose other than guiding individual medical care," argued Duke University professor Nita Farahany in the Washington Post. "Vaccine cards (and immunization apps) could turn into powerful weapons of exclusion and discrimination," she wrote.

The catch: The official documentation that Americans receive upon being vaccinated is little more than a flimsy, easily-forged paper card. As Gavi, the global vaccination alliance, notes, that in turn creates "concerns that documentation could be fraudulently reproduced".

  • It's a real concern: A recent flight from Russia to China was canceled after more than 190 of the passengers attempted to board with “completely identical” serology tests.

Between the lines: Trustworthy and reliable digital proof of vaccination is not only possible, Meyer tells Axios, it's also quite easy and will almost certainly happen.

  • That's because the government doesn't need to be involved.
  • Individual Americans have the right, under HIPAA, to access digital copies of their health information. Once they've done that, they can upload that information to any app or service that requests it.
  • "People shouldn’t be happy walking out of getting their jab with just a piece of paper," says Meyer — they should be sure to demand digital access to their vaccination records as well. Rather than relying on the government to centralize vaccination records, he says, "the human being is the only central organizing point in the healthcare system."

The bottom line: Paper "yellow cards" were generally accepted as proof of vaccination against yellow fever. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination, by contrast, is going to be digital — and it's going to be on individual Americans to get it.

Go deeper: Axios' Joann Muller describes how an immunity-passport system is likely to work; Sam Baker explores the fraught question of vaccine mandates; and Ina Fried runs down the list of U.S. technology companies supporting the vaccination effort.

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - Health

Biden admin to boost COVID vaccine delivery to states for at least 3 weeks

Vice President Harris receives her second COVID-19 vaccine dose in Bethesda, Maryland, on Jan. 26. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration plans to increase its COVID-19 vaccine shipments to states and tribes from 8.6 million doses per week to 10 million for at least the next three weeks, as part of an effort to vaccinate the majority of the U.S. population by the end of this summer.

Why it matters: Hospitals in states across the U.S. say they are running out of vaccines and the country's death toll is sharply rising.

Scammers have stolen over $130 million in coronavirus-related schemes

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Over 100,000 Americans have collectively reported roughly $132 million in fraud losses from scams related to the coronavirus and government stimulus checks since the March start of the pandemic, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Coronavirus-related fraud complaints peaked in May when the IRS began sending its first round of stimulus checks. Congress recently proposed a second round of stimulus.

Jan 26, 2021 - Health

U.K. surpasses 100,000 COVID-19 deaths

Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

The U.K. on Tuesday surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths almost a year after the first two cases were reported in the country, according to government figures.

Why it matters: It is the first European country and fifth country in the world to reach the threshold. The country reported 100,162 deaths on Tuesday.