DTTalks: digital vaccine certificates take digitalisation in healthcare forward


Governments need to ensure trust from citizens, leadership, and clear communication to  of a digital vaccine certificate. This has been pointed out in today’s series of Digital Transformation Talks “Digital Health Security and the Vaccine Certificate” .

The speakers of today’s session included high-level international decision-makers, strategists, and hands-on public and private sector practitioners of digital healthcare solutions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new reality for the healthcare sector, globally testing its limits. Last week, the European Commission unveiled its common approach to vaccine certificates to ease free travel within the bloc,” reminded Hannes Astok, Executive Director at e-Governance Academy.

According to Astok, the EU proposal on Digital Green Certificate can become a major step towards interoperable COVID-19 proofs in Europe and can help governments to reopen societies and economies.

In this regard, Kalle Killar, Undersecretary for E-Health and Innovation, Ministry of Social Affairs of Estonia, stressed that privacy and security should be ensured in order to gain trust from citizens to such vaccine certificates. “They give a perfect opportunity to take digitalisation in healthcare forward. We must aim higher, as this sense of urgency opens up a lot more opportunities for cross-border data exchange,” he stressed. He also pointed out that Estonia is going to have a digital vaccine certificate ready in April.

“Launching our national solution before the EU’s Digital Green Certificate gives us possibility to address potential obstacles in the use of certificate. In addition, with our solution already working we are ready to join with EU’s Digital Green Certificate from day 1 once the agreement is in place and it complies already with EU green certificate. We are committed to provide in any area to our citizens with best possible digital tools and information,” said Killar.

Kalle Killar

Marten Kaevats, a National Digital Advisor to the Government Office of Estonia, underlined the necessity of establishing trust between states, as well as clear communication and leadership in order to ensure the effective secure data exchange. “A global trust framework is necessary for the development of digital vaccination certificates. We see that technical “know-how” often surpasses this domain. But generalized trust is a precondition for health data exchange,” he stressed.

A globally digital trust framework will allow these certificates to be trusted across national borders, corroborated Clayton Hamilton, coordinator of Digital Health Flagship, World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. He informed that recently WHO released the first set of guidelines on developing a vaccination certificate which is available for everyone on the official website. “We should avoid transplanting the inequalities exposed by COVID-19 into digital environments, across smart vaccinations. WHO has a dual take: developing adequate standards for digital passes, but also a paper-first approach to ensure equity of access,” Clayton Hamilton pointed out.

Clayton Hamilton

Konstantin Hyppönen, DG SANTE, European Commission, presented an overview of the proposal on the Digital Green Certificate. The vaccination certificate will be issued to all citizens vaccinated against COVID-19 and will list only the key information – identity, vaccine administered, metadata, he described. “It will facilitate free movement in the EU and ensuring the basic right to data protection,” ensured Hyppönen.

At the same time, Vincent van Pelt, Nictiz, from Competence Centre for Electronic Exchange of Health and Care Information (the Netherlands), pointed out the inclusivity of the Digital Green Certificate. “It’s for all citizens, with access to either the digital or paper-based form. It is free of charge, does not preclude any other proofs. But also, it is not something coming from Brussels – as an e-Health Network initiative, all EU countries are committed and involved,” he pointed out.

Ain Aaviksoo  from Guardtime highlighted the urgency of moving forward with the vaccine certificate development. “If we’re creating something, let’s make it valuable beyond this summer. Otherwise, we might have a similar situation as for contact tracing apps: sophisticated, secure, privacy-preserving tools, but ultimately of moderate utility to epidemiologists,” he said.

The Digital Transformation Talks is a series of timely online discussions organised by the e-Governance Academy. This event is organised in close collaboration with the Estonian Government Office.