Home Sci-Tech Africa: Fighting Fake Immunization Travel Certificates With Frontier Technologies

Africa: Fighting Fake Immunization Travel Certificates With Frontier Technologies

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Harare — At the main bus terminus in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, travellers heading to neighbouring Zambia can be tempted by offers of counterfeit travel vaccination certificates. A thriving black market there sells a fake proof of immunization for between US$ 15-20, says Dr Integrity Mchechesi, who works with a technology firm to combat such forgery.

Counterfeit travel vaccination certificates can put lives at risk and greatly jeopardize disease control. “We estimate that around 80% of yellow fever travel cards in Zimbabwe are counterfeit,” says Dr Mchechesi, a co-founder and head of innovation at Vaxiglobal, a travel health consultancy.

Vaxiglobal is working with laboratories in Zimbabwe and Zambia, airlines and technology companies to build up a safe and approved digital verification system for travellers’ immunization.

Built on blockchain technology, a decentralized online record keeping system, the database cannot be tampered with.

“It’s often impossible for busy border authorities to verify the names of doctors, and the supposed location where vaccinations occurred, by phone or email,” says Dr Mchechesi, also a senior resident medical officer at the Parirenyatwa Central hospital in Harare.

“After vaccination, the laboratories create a digital record in our system. The traveller gets a QR code on a mobile app or on paper, which is instantly verified by the border authorities, who can see where they got the vaccine and who gave it to them, as well as the batch number of the vaccine, which protects the authenticity of each and every vaccine.”