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The digital vaccine passport helping to re-open the world

Through digitalising vaccination records, VacTrack is helping to revolutionise another traditional paper-based aspect of healthcare, while also playing a crucial role in helping to negotiate the ongoing impact of, and restrictions around, COVID-19. Health Tech World finds out more

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What began as an important issue before the pandemic has now become an absolute priority in the current climate – vaccinations. 

Despite the prevalence of infectious diseases globally, decreasing vaccination uptake and adherence – driven by a lack of reminders for boosters – has seen a decline in uptake, with the use of paper-based certificates proving problematic in record keeping. 

“The idea came way before COVID was even on the scene, although the issue of vaccinations has taken on a new importance now,” says Emily Gaizley, co-founder of VacTrack.

“When you’re travelling and living away from home and you have to call your parents for records of your vaccinations, it’s a bit of a nightmare. Also for people with children who have to keep track of their vaccination schedules. We knew there must be a better way.” 

And from there came VacTrack, founded by Emily and two fellow UCL alumni, Gabriella Hakim and Louis Seller, with the ambition to improve population health globally by tacking decreasing vaccination adherence.  

Launched in April 2020, the free app tells people which routine vaccines and travel vaccines are needed, while keeping a digital record of such. Through the creation of algorithms, VacTrack provides personalised vaccine recommendations based on a person’s travel destination, NHS guidelines, medical history and other risk factors.

While relevant in any climate, its potential in the COVID-19 era is enormous, and VacTrack has been quick to respond to the opportunity. 

An immunity wallet allows a user to input which vaccines they’ve received, generating a temporary QR code that can be shared with anyone who has a smartphone – a crucial tool in providing evidence of immunity status as pandemic restrictions continue to be in place. 

Tackling the current issue of global travel by offering real time advice on any destination a person is travelling to regarding what testing and vaccination will be needed, VacTrack is also supporting the re-opening of society by developing a management platform for venues and workspaces to enable customers and employees to return safely and with confidence. That innovation is set to be up and running within the coming weeks. 

A partnership with London Vaccination Clinic has been formed to deliver the app alongside the COVID-19 vaccination programme, and pilot study with two GP centres in London is also underway. 

“COVID has really shone a light on the problem – it has been a really extreme example of what can happen with the spread of infectious diseases, and what can go wrong,” says Emily. 

“But alongside COVID, there are infectious diseases like meningitis and measles which we can vaccinate against, and we can record this on the app.” 

And with the further development of VacTrack to include its management platform – which  aggregates government and private vaccine/testing data to verify an individual’s immunity status via VacTrack’s user-facing app – the return to the workplace and ability for people to socialise again can be done with greater confidence. 

“By creating safe spaces for people and inclusive workplaces, we are benefitting businesses, employees and customers alike, which is really important as people return to being in contact,” says Emily. 

“We are looking at having it finalised by the end of June, then start testing it with a number of companies who have already expressed interest, before rolling out more extensively.”

And in further support of plans to return to commonplace activities prior to March 2020, VacTrack is also supporting people to resume international travel. 

The app offers the Government’s Fit to Fly and Test to Release COVID tests through the app in addition to its information about the COVID testing and other vaccination requirements internationally. 

“Travel is so difficult to negotiate at the moment but through the app having updated guidance in every country globally, letting people know what they need to do regarding testing, we’re hoping that’s going to be very useful,” says Emily.

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