Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday that Americans who have digital access to their Covid vaccination status would be helpful in managing the coronavirus pandemic in the coming months.
In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner attempted to downplay privacy concerns at the center of the conflict with the review requirements.
“The whole discussion about vaccination cards has raised many concerns about whether or not it will restrict people’s access to things they would otherwise do,” said Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member of the three emergency Covid Vaccines “The use case for this information should allow access to things that would otherwise be restricted.”
Gottlieb pointed to visits to nursing homes or hospitals in the fall when he said he expected coronavirus cases to rise again. Last winter, “nursing homes banned visitors. Hospitals banned visitors,” he said. “You might see a situation where these facilities could allow visitors if they can prove they have been vaccinated.”
Information about Covid vaccines administered is entered into the same system used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track pediatric vaccinations, Gottlieb said. “The problem with the system is that it was never really designed to be accessible to consumers, so there really is no way for consumers to get any information right now to prove they have been vaccinated.”
The paper cards from the CDC people they are currently receiving when they take their Covid shots are unlikely to cut it either, he said. “These are now available on eBay. So people don’t accept the cards as proof of vaccination.”
Therefore, digital documentation of the Covid vaccine status should be available to Americans, he said. “How you use it is up to you,” said Gottlieb, who was FDA chief in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019.
Efforts are being made to develop digital Covid vaccine records, including a high profile group supported by Microsoft and the Mayo Clinic known as the Vaccination Credential Initiative. The coalition said earlier this month it hoped to make the technology it developed available in May.
IBM is working with New York State on a digital health passport that uses blockchain technology to verify a person’s test or vaccine credentials. Walmart, who is shooting in its stores, recently backed calls for vaccine certificates.
The debate about so-called vaccination passports is controversial as some critics express concerns about civil liberty. In Florida, for example, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed an ordinance this month preventing companies from requiring a person to get a Covid vaccine as a requirement for service.
Last week, the Biden government banned vaccination records at the federal level. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday, “There will be no federal vaccination database or federal mandate that requires everyone to receive a single vaccination certificate.”
Gottlieb said: “Under certain circumstances,” he expects people to have to prove that they have been vaccinated against Covid. “I think people need to think differently about it,” he added. “Right now, as consumers, we don’t and shouldn’t have this information.”
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, health technology company Aetion Inc., and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as the co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings‘ and royal caribbean“Healthy Sail Panel”. The Associated Press contributed to this report.