Will an Implanted Microchip Replace Cards as Vaccine Passports?

A Swedish company has created scannable digital implants that act as vaccine passports.

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Person, Human, Animal
Image via AFP/YouTube

Claim

An implanted microchip in the body can replace vaccine cards and will be used instead to carry COVID-19 vaccine passports.

Rating

What's True

A Swedish company has created a digital implant that can display your COVID vaccine passport when scanned. Implanted microchips are not a new phenomenon in Sweden, and they’ve been in use before the pandemic.

What's False

This is not officially replacing physical cards in other countries, and users in Sweden must opt in to purchase it. Only 6,000 people in Sweden have used the microchips.

Origin

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As the pandemic enters its third year, many vaccinated people are getting used to the idea of carrying their proof-of-vaccination card around with them. One company in Sweden wants to make it easier by inserting microchip implants just beneath the skin that would be scanned and act as vaccine passports.

Snopes readers asked us if this meant that microchips would eventually replace cards, or documents. Meanwhile, conservative American magazine The Federalist argued that this could lead to something more serious:

While I doubt any population will be forcibly chipped like wayward housecats—at least not in the near future—no nightmarish policy is truly off the table. In the past 21 months, the United States has seen mandated mRNA gene therapies, QR code-based vaccine passports, mass deletion of supposed “misinformation,” and even drone surveillance to monitor social distancing. Meanwhile, more young adults died from fentanyl overdoses than from any transmissible disease.

If the biosecurity state can force you to wear an obedience mask to buy groceries, what can’t they do? Resist their measures at every turn. Drag these people down from the seats of power. Dismantle the structures they’ve already put in place.

Ultimately, the option to microchip has only been used by 6,000 people in Sweden — a country where such implants have actually been in use before the pandemic, and without much public fear surrounding them.

The creator behind the microchip described it in an interview with AFP in December 2021. Hannes Sjobald, managing director of Dsruptive Subdermals, said, “I have a chip implant in my arm, and I have programmed the chip so that I have my COVID passport on the chip, and the reason is that I always want to have it accessible.” He then revealed how it works by scanning his arm with his phone, which brought up a PDF with his EU Digital COVID Certificate.

 
According to France24, at the beginning of December 2021, Sweden enacted new rules that required people to show their vaccination documents at all gatherings of 100 people or more. The estimated number of microchipped people is around 6,000 now, including those who opted to get the chip before the pandemic struck, according to EU Fact Check, a fact-checking project of the European Journalism Training Association (EJTA).

Swedes have been getting microchipped for a range of reasons, and the practice became popular in 2014-2016. Thousands of people were getting these microchips implanted to make their daily lives more convenient, swiping digital scanners to access homes, offices, and gyms, and to carry emergency contact information, tickets for rail journeys, and more.

According to the AFP, this implant costs 100 euros or $112. The microchip is not officially replacing vaccination documents, can be purchased only in Sweden, and is not yet widely available. Sjobald said people who can get the implant are usually curious and want to “work with this technology.”

Sjobald explained to the AFP that these implants don’t have a battery, and cannot transmit signals by themselves. “So they are basically passive. They sit there asleep,” he said. “They can never tell your location, they’re only activated when you touch them with your smartphone, so this means they cannot be used for tracking anyone’s location.”

Meanwhile, some are skeptical of microchipping.

Ben Libberton, a British scientist based in Sweden, told NPR in 2018, “What is happening now is relatively safe. But if it’s used everywhere, if every time you want to do something and instead of using a card you use your chip, it could be very, very easy to let go of [personal] information.

“Because it’s implanted in your body, when more health-related information starts being used and incorporated into the chip and being transmitted — that could create an extra layer of privacy that we really need to look at and take care of before it’s widely used,” he added.

We should note that many people across the United States now store their COVID health data on their cellphones using Apple and Google Wallet apps, and use them to get access to restaurants, public spaces, and more.  

While the microchips are available and in use by some people in Sweden, they are not widespread, and not available in other countries around the world, like the United States. As such, any alarmist interpretations of their usage is somewhat overblown at this moment. As such, we rate this claim as a “Mixture” of truth.


Sources:

Chen, Brian X. “How to Carry Your Covid Health Data on a Smartphone.” The New York Times, 1 Dec. 2021. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/01/technology/personaltech/covid-vaccination-card-phone.html.

“Microchip Allows You to Carry Your Covid Pass under Your Skin.” AFP, Dec. 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heX9iVGW_fU.

Savage, Maddy. “Thousands Of Swedes Are Inserting Microchips Under Their Skin.” NPR, 22 Oct. 2018. https://www.npr.org/2018/10/22/658808705/thousands-of-swedes-are-inserting-microchips-under-their-skin.

“Swedes Are Implanting Microchip Vaccine Passports. It Won’t Stop There.” The Federalist, 23 Dec. 2021, https://thefederalist.com/2021/12/23/swedes-are-implanting-microchip-vaccine-passports-it-wont-stop-there/.

Starczewska, Kornelia, and Maciej Polcyn, Wael Nel. “True: ‘Microchips Are Getting under the Skin of Thousands in Sweden.’” Eufactcheck.Eu, 2020, https://eufactcheck.eu/factcheck/true-microchips-are-getting-under-the-skin-of-thousands-in-sweden/. Accessed 18 Jan. 2022.

Teh, Cheryl. “A Swedish Company Has Created a Microchip That Allows Users to Carry Their COVID Vaccine Passport under Their Skin.” Insider, https://www.insider.com/swedish-firm-under-skin-microchip-for-covid-19-passes-2021-12. Accessed 18 Jan. 2022.