California rolled out a new system on June 18 that will enable people to present digital proof from state health officials of having been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We’re better enabling California to verify their vaccination status to ensure our state is in a better position to encourage the best practices for reducing the spread of COVID-19,” California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan told reporters on a call.
The vaccine verification system, dubbed a “digital vaccine record,” will require people to enter several details, such as their name and date of birth to get a digital copy of their vaccination record. If their record is found, they will get a link that they can use to access their vaccination information, including the date or dates they received doses and a QR code confirming that the record is authentic.
It’s the same information that people see on the paper card that many receive when they get a vaccine, but authorities are recommending the vaccinated keep their paper cards in a safe and secure location and use the digital pass instead.
More than 23.5 million people in California have received a COVID-19 vaccine, according to state data. Whoever administers a vaccine in the state reports details of the recipient to state authorities. Over 90 percent of the people who have been vaccinated chose to give state authorities their contact information.
For the rest of those who got a shot, they can contact a hotline at 833-422-4255 to get access to the digital pass.
The California Department of Technology developed the free pass, which authorities say is not a “vaccine passport.” Over half of U.S. states have banned such passports, asserting they present serious privacy concerns and disparate treatment of the unvaccinated.
The new system is “similar in concept” to the Excelsior Pass, New York’s vaccine passport, according to Rick Klau, California’s chief technology innovation officer and a former Google developer.
“This is an opportunity for a resident in our case in the state of California to simply have a digital copy of their vaccination record,” he said.
The records are being safely stored, he added.
Authorities indicated on the call that a business or other establishment can require that everyone who enters to show digital proof of vaccination. A Health Department spokesperson didn’t immediately respond when asked if a business can bar people who aren’t vaccinated from entering.
The system was rolled out several days after updated guidance was put into place, giving businesses three options for when to require masks.
They can either let those who are vaccinated self-attest, while informing that those who haven’t gotten a shot must wear a mask; they can use a vaccine verification system to see who must wear a mask; or they can simply require all customers to use a face covering.