California Launches Website to Help Residents Get Digital Vaccine Record, Insists It’s Not a Passport

Stickers for the clergy to wear after they receive the vaccine sit on a table at Hartford HealthCare St. Vincents Medical Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut on February 26, 2021.

Stickers for the clergy to wear after they receive the vaccine sit on a table at Hartford HealthCare St. Vincents Medical Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut on February 26, 2021.
Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP (Getty Images)

A new website in California will give the public a way to access their digital covid-19 vaccine record and share their proof of vaccination. While that may sound awfully close to a vaccine passport, which is a contentious topic in some states, California insists that it’s not.

The state recently unveiled its Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record portal, which it describes as an “optional means” for people to obtain their covid-19 vaccine information. According to the website, the record provided is the digital version of the paper card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention individuals receive when they’re vaccinated. California officials also maintain that the digital vaccine record is also a convenient safeguard for people who have misplaced or lost their physical card.

“While [the California Department of Public Health] recommends that vaccinated Californians keep their paper CDC card in a safe and secure place, we recognize that some people might prefer an electronic version,” Dr. Erica Pan, an epidemiologist for the state, said in a news release on Friday. “And if one of the state’s nearly 20 million vaccinated Californians misplaces their paper card, the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record provides a convenient backup.”

California will not be implementing a mandatory vaccine passport system, officials said on the portal website. Nonetheless, it will require proof of vaccination or a negative covid-19 test in some circumstances, such as at indoor events with at least 5,000 people. The Biden administration has also said it would not create a federal vaccination database or mandate vaccine credentials.

Using the portal seems appears to be fairly simple. People enter their name, date of birth, and the email or phone number associated with their vaccine record. The system will then prompt individuals to create a four-digit pin. If the information provided matches what the state has on file, individuals will receive a text or an email with a link to their record, which they can access with the pin. The pin is meant to protect individual privacy, the website explains, and the link to the vaccine record is only sent to the phone number or email associated with a particular record.

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The digital vaccine record will include a person’s name, date of birth, vaccination dates, and vaccine manufacturer. Individuals will also receive a scannable QR code, which state officials say will affirm that the vaccine record is authentic.

Once you receive your digital vaccine record, officials recommend you take a screenshot and save it to your phone and save the QR code to your camera roll. You also have the option of printing a copy of the record and storing it in a safe place. Against all odds, should you lose your digital copy as well, have no fear. You can repeat the process and regain access to your record on the portal.

California’s Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record portal is similar to New York’s Excelsior Pass app, which is linked to the state’s vaccine database and allows residents to demonstrate whether they’ve been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus.

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