OWINGS MILLS, Md. — September 12, 2021
“With a growing number of countries around the world now requiring visitors to present some form of digital proof of vaccination, international travelers have become used to having to prove their vaccination status at one or more stages of their journeys. For example, visitors to Canada are required to download the free ArriveCAN app to prove their vaccination status before crossing the border. And all of the European Union’s 27 member countries are now using the EU Digital Covid Certificate, which allows for free movement between all the countries within the bloc.
But digital verification is becoming more commonplace at home, too. Anyone road-tripping across the United States will likely encounter more than one restaurant, entertainment venue or sports stadium that requires proof of vaccination as a condition for entry.
The Biden administration has declined to get behind a national vaccination verification app here in the United States, and the topic of vaccine passports is a political hot potato, with 15 Republican-leaning states limiting or banning vaccine passports via legislation or governors’ executive orders.
That leaves Americans still relying on paper vaccination records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — an analog solution that can be lost or easily faked, and which requires human scrutiny to confirm authenticity.
“The root cause of this paper-first orientation is due to the general lack of verified digital identity that is accurate and secure,” explains Amena Ali, CEO of Airside Mobile. “Identity proofing and verification is the first step in addressing this issue and many others where we have to rely on paper.”
Airside Mobile is just one of a handful of technology companies offering modern solutions to age-old travelers’ conundrums. The company’s Digital Identity app lets travelers securely manage all of their verified identity credentials —passport, driver’s license, Covid vaccination record, testing results and more — in one place, their smartphone.
As Americans encounter an increasing number of places asking them to show proof of their vaccination status, it’s become clear that a paper solution is not going to cut it. Luckily, Americans who want a digital vaccination record now have more ways than ever to get one.
The U.S. is Getting SMARTer
A private-public partnership of technology and health care companies called the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), which includes Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, the Mayo Clinic and other heavyweights, has created a verifiable digital proof of vaccination called the SMART Health Card that has been gathering steam.
The SMART system generates a QR code that can be accessed through a smartphone or printed out on paper. When the code is pulled up, only the individual’s name, date of birth and vaccination information is visible. No other medical information or personal data is shared. This code is also digitally signed to ensure that the card was issued from a verified location and to prevent forgery.
SMART Health Cards are already available to nearly 100 million US residents.
You currently have access to a SMART Health Card if you live in a state that was an early adopter of the SMART system. New York has its Excelsior Pass and California has its Digital Covid-19 Vaccine Record. Residents of Louisiana can add their Covid-19 vaccination records to the LA Wallet, which uses the SMART system. And just yesterday, Hawaii began offering the Hawaiʻi SMART Health Card, a state-issued digital record that may be used to confirm vaccination status to businesses and venues that require it. In addition, some cities — like New York City and Los Angeles — offer their own digital vaccine mobile wallets to residents.
If your state does not offer a SMART solution, perhaps your county does. Maryland does not offer a statewide SMART Health Card but residents of Calvert County, Carroll County, Charles County, St. Mary’s County, Talbot County and Wicomico County can get a free SMART Health Card through a partnership with VaccineCheck. (And, regardless of where you live, you can subscribe to VaccineCheck for $24.95 per year to get a verified digital vaccination card.)
The logical place to begin looking for a digital solution is where you were vaccinated. Every state’s health department keeps track of immunization records and can tell you whether it’s possible to get a digital proof of your Covid status. Start by finding your state on the CDC’s list of state and regional immunization registries.
Eight states and territories use a platform called MyIRMobile, which allows residents to obtain their immunization records on a PDF that can be either printed or stored on their phones. MyIRMobile is available in Arizona, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, Washington and West Virginia, and it is rolling out soon in Puerto Rico. While it MyIRMobile does not provide a QR code, it does offer an official, verified record from each participating state.
Two states — Utah and New Jersey — are using a CDC-approved app called Docket, and it is rolling out soon in other states. Docket gives users electronic access to their own Covid-19 vaccination records and provides a QR code to attest vaccination status.
Does your state offer a digital driver’s license? Some states, including Colorado, let residents store their vaccination information in the same digital wallet. “Coloradans may add a photograph of this vaccine record or of their paper vaccine card to their MyColorado app to have an easily accessible digital vaccine record,” said Jessica Bralish, Director of Communications at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.