If you are in California and want to show proof that you are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, you now have a digital way of doing so.
And it’s not a dance video:
Or a video of you doing a vault:
No, instead, the state government of California has just unveiled its Digital Covid-19 Vaccine Record portal.
Now, the frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of the portal emphasizes that this is technically not a “vaccine passport.” That’s because you are not required to obtain a digital Covid-19 vaccine record like you are required to have a passport to travel outside the U.S. or an Avengers membership card if you want to say that you are an Avenger. The words “vaccine passport” have become loaded language sort of like the word “bae” because there is ongoing debate over whether businesses should require Covid-19 vaccination.
For now, consider the California Digital Covid-19 Vaccine record to be an alternative to carrying around that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Covid-19 Vaccination Record Card that you’ve probably been protecting like you would an autograph from BTS. After all, with the CDC and many businesses now distinguishing what vaccinated versus unvaccinated people can do, there’s gotta be a way of verifying whether you are fully vaccinated. After all, the past year has shown how well any kind of “honor system” would work in the U.S.
Here’s how the new California portal is supposed to work. First, enter your name, your date of birth, and your email or mobile phone number in the the form on the website. Next, create a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN).
The system will then check whether the info you entered matches that of your official Covid-19 vaccination record in California. So for example, entering “Rick Roll” and some birth date in the year 1987 may get you an error message. By contrast, entering info that matches an available record will get you a text or email with a prompt to enter your PIN. Typing in your PIN will subsequently give you access to a QR code and digital copy of your Covid-19 vaccination record from the California Immunization Registry (CAIR2).
A QR code in this case stands for a Quick Response code rather than a Quiet Riot code and is a two-dimensional bar code that can be subsequently scanned by an electronic device. Presumably, businesses at some point will have such scanning devices to make checks more efficient. Faster lines will give you more time in the bar to use pick-up lines such as “If you were a chicken, you’d be impeccable.”
California is not the first state in the country to have such a system. Nope, that distinction belongs to New York. Back in late March, the state of New York unveiled its Excelsior Pass. Developed with the help of IBM, this free, voluntary digital platform allows New Yorkers to provide proof of not only their Covid-19 vaccination status but also their negative Covid-19 test results via a smartphone app.
Of course, setting up and maintaining a digital vaccination verification system is no small task. The system needs to be secure and reliable. As I have reported for Forbes, people have already been offering fake Covid-19 vaccination record cards. So surely people will try to steal info off of these online systems. Also, you don’t want an error message to appear right before you are about to enter that goat yoga class that you’ve been long waiting to attend again.
With the lack of a national Covid-19 vaccine record system, it will be interesting to see how many other states end up developing similar systems as well. In the meantime, if you got vaccinated in one state without a vaccine record system but frequent another state that has a vaccination record system you may still need to carry around your CDC card. And it you move from one state to another, it’s not yet clear how your records may be transferred. Typically, it’s better to design, set up, and establish such record systems well before vaccines are even rolled out to population. But that obviously didn’t happen in 2020.