German pharmacies unable to issue digital Covid vaccine pass amid security fears

German pharmacies unable to issue digital Covid vaccine pass amid security fears
Ronald Fritz, the CovPass project manager at IBM, displays his digital Covid vaccine pass. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler
Pharmacies around Germany have temporarily stopped offering the digital Covid vaccination pass to customers after potential security issues were flagged up.

The Health Ministry confirmed on Thursday that they had been notified of potentially “weak points” in accessing the German Pharmacists’ Association web portal – which is used to generate the certificate.

An investigation by business daily Handelsblatt found that forged documents could be used to generate ‘guest access’ for a non-existent pharmacist on the portal and use this access to secure certificates for unauthorised third parties.

Since Wednesday, thousands of pharmacies across Germany have had their access to the certificates temporarily deactivated while IT experts assess the potential for further security breaches.

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“It is being checked whether or which additional security mechanisms can or should be implemented against misuse,” said the pharmacists’ association. “It has not yet been determined when the issuing of certificates will be resumed.”

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get your digital Covid vaccine pass in Germany for EU travel

As of Thursday, the association said there was no evidence of any additional unauthorised access to the portal beyond the two Handelsblatt investigators. The issue is currently not affecting vaccination centres. 

FDP places blame on Jens Spahn 

Speaking to Augsburger Allgemeinen, Free Democratic Party (FDP) health expert Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus placed the blame for the issues squarely at the feet of Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU).

“We could have saved today’s chaos and a lot of money if the federal government had acted in good time,” she said.

“It would have been less effort for the citizen and also safer if the QR code could have been transmitted directly since the start of the vaccination campaign,” said the FDP politician.

“With timely action on the introduction of a digital vaccination pass, as the FDP parliamentary group demanded in 2019 – long before the pandemic – all of this effort wouldn’t have been necessary.” 

Since June 14th 2021, vaccinated people have been able to obtain the digital EU Covid health pass for free from their local pharmacy. On July 8th, this was expanded to include people who have recovered from Covid and also had their first jab.

READ ALSO: Germany to offer digital vaccine certificates to Covid survivors who’ve had one jab

The move is intended to offer a simplified, EU-wide system for proving an individual’s Covid vaccination status during the pandemic. It can be used for the purposes of cross-border travel throughout the European Union, and for access to events and venues. 


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