Tell us about your experiences with Marketplace. Enter To Win
COVID-19

Blockchain technology, used in Bitcoin, aids U.K. vaccine program

Stephen Beard Mar 1, 2021
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
COVID-19

Blockchain technology, used in Bitcoin, aids U.K. vaccine program

Stephen Beard Mar 1, 2021
Heard on:
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Blockchain — the system of decentralizing a database and distributing it across an entire network of computers — brought us Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It’s been used to make supply chains more transparent and create secure records that cannot be altered unilaterally.

Now the technology is being used in the COVID-19 immunization program of Britain’s state-owned National Health Service.

The vaccines need to be stored at frigid temperatures to be effective. In the case of the Pfizer shot, the required range is minus 60 to minus 80 Celsius.

“Storing the drugs in the correct way is absolutely critical,” said Tom Screen, technical director of the British technology company Everyware.

A portrait of Tom Screen, technical director of a British technology company called   Everyware.
Tom Screen, technical director of Everyware. (Photo courtesy of Everyware)

The company is using sensors and cloud computing to remotely monitor the temperature of NHS refrigeration units.

“If a fridge does go out of the temperature range, the hospital gets an automated alert,” Screen said, adding that without such notification the hospital could be forced to discard precious vaccine supplies.

Data security is a crucial part of Everyware’s modus operandi, especially when it comes to NHS facilities. The health service suffered a serious cyberattack in 2017 and was subsequently criticized in a parliamentary report for being unprepared for hackers.

Mance Harmon, CEO of Hedera, a U.S.-based platform that offers a distributed ledger technology like blockchain.
Mance Harmon, CEO of Hedera. (Photo courtesy of Hedera)

To help with cybersecurity, Everyware has turned to Hedera, a U.S.-based platform that offers a distributed ledger technology like blockchain, which gave birth to Bitcoin. Hedera CEO Mance Harmon said it’s ideal for a COVID-19 immunization program.

“Having a tamper-proof record-keeping system that can be shared across the vaccine supply chain is always important, but critically so here for the COVID vaccines,” Harmon said.

Hedera’s chief executive believes that decentralized computer networks with hundreds or even thousands of participants can play an important role in other aspects of pandemic management — to combat vaccine counterfeiting, for example, and create unforgeable vaccination certificates.

Jillian Godsil, author and blockchain expert. (Photo courtesy of Godsil)

Trust is the key, according to Jillian Godsil, an author who’s written extensively about blockchain. She said that as the pandemic has spread insecurity, distributed ledgers have come into their own.

“People can lie. Institutions can lie. Governments can lie. But blockchain cannot lie,” she said.

As a result, Godsil said, more and more people are entrusting their health — and not just their wealth — to this technology.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

Read More

Collapse

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.