Jim Blumenstock, ASTHO’s Senior Vice President for Pandemic Response and Recovery, discusses the importance of collaboration as states and territories stand up systems to verify an individual’s vaccination status; Joshua Berry, an ASTHO Analyst...
Jim Blumenstock, ASTHO’s Senior Vice President for Pandemic Response and Recovery, discusses the importance of collaboration as states and territories stand up systems to verify an individual’s vaccination status; Joshua Berry, an ASTHO Analyst for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, outlines new tobacco prevention resources now available for ASTHO members; and listeners are reminded to sign up for a new leadership program for public health professionals who self-identify from an under-represented group.
This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday, August 27th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.
Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
The paper CDC vaccination card, given to people who got their shots, is being tested as fakes flood the market. While the demand for proof of vaccination grows among government agencies, colleges, universities, and businesses, so does the challenge facing states and territories.
Jim Blumenstock is ASTHO's senior vice president for pandemic response and recovery. He talks about the need to verify vaccination status in today's morning conversation.
Why is it becoming necessary to verify vaccine status and who is asking for this help?
Well, I think there are really two very good reasons.
You know, first, let's really be quite clear: buying, selling, or using fake or counterfeit vaccination cards is against the law. It's a crime, which the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the Customs and Border Protection, and some of the other federal agencies and states really take quite seriously. So, to me, that is really the first reason why we need a verification system.
Secondly is demand and utilization. Clearly, there's an increasing interest in and demand for vaccination verification tools and products as vaccination requirements are put in place in some of the areas: we've got colleges and universities, employers—both government and private, retail and dining facilities, large public gatherings and other venues, and international travel, and the list goes on.
So, I think we can certainly expect that this trend to continue.
How can states and territories verify vaccine status efficiently and effectively given all of this demand?
Last month, we issued a policy statement that really articulates what I would consider some of the main or key principles and elements to consider if a jurisdiction is moving in the direction of creating their own vaccine verification system
You know, those imperatives or principles would include things that you would not be surprised to see—you know, the importance of protecting privacy, making sure it's easily accessible and usable, and it should be at no cost to the individual. It should also make accommodations for those who are unable to receive COVID vaccine either because of medical conditions or their age, just to ensure that they're really not deprived of access to essential services.
And lastly, you know, that it has the requisite technical and technological specifications, such as being verifiable and secure, and that it's integrated with existing immunization information systems and other databases, which actually hold all the key critical information that's necessary for vaccine verification.
What are some of the pitfalls that ASTHO members need to watch out for as they go through this process?
Yeah, well, it certainly is a dynamic system that's continuing to grow and sort of reaching sort of its maturity over time. So, there really is a lot of activity in this space right now.
So, I think the first point to stress here is clearly, you know, a jurisdiction's public policy considerations and the demand for verifiable forms of vaccination credentials will ultimately drive the type of system a state may develop and its rollout from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
So, that said, I think jurisdictions must continue to assess and determine their actual need to pursue such credentials. They are clearly encouraged to collaborate with industry, the nonprofit sector, and other jurisdictions as technology solutions are developed, and other applications are put in the field.
And I can't emphasize enough the importance of cross jurisdictional communication and coordination. You know, state health departments learn and support each other every day; and I think this is one area that would really benefit from the sort of the cohesiveness of the state and territorial health agencies as they move forward in this direction.
And lastly, they have to draw upon their lessons learned. States have had an immunization requirements and band-aids for childhood immunizations for decades. So, I think there's a lot to learn there not only from policy, but also logistics, and really public acceptance as to what would be the best vaccine verification system for a jurisdiction to create and put in the field that would be effective.
Also this morning, organizers have a new campaign to help smokers quit tobacco say there's never been a better time than the pandemic to kick the habit. That's because the COVID-19 virus can make people who smoke sicker than those who don't.
The campaign called I COVID QUIT is available to ASTHO members now.
Joshua Berry is an ASTHO analyst focused on health promotion and disease prevention.
The campaign website contains a really strong selection of a shareable campaign images and videos. They're specifically designed to be shareable on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, so they're ready to go. And they feature the stories of real tobacco users talking about how COVID-19 made them think differently about the need to quit tobacco use out of interest for their health.
And so, those graphics and videos—which are available for ASTHO members and everyone else to be able to share on their own channels—those are accompanied by a brief toolkit that outlines all of that content available and includes recommended hashtags and drafted captions to make things really easy for the communications folks and the health agencies and other partner organizations to really get this out there into the world and spread to folks all over the country.
Finally today, we wanted to remind you again about the new leadership program for public health professionals who self-identify from an underrepresented group.
Apply now for the Diverse Executives Leading in Public Health program. ASTHO and the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine teamed up to create the curriculum.
The deadline to sign up is September 7th. Hear more about the program on our show published Wednesday.
Find a link to the program website and everything else mentioned this morning in today's show notes.
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Join us Monday morning for more ASTHO news and information.
I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition.