California unveils system to provide digital COVID-19 vaccine records
LOS ANGELES — Officials on Friday unveiled a new system through which Californians can access a digital copy of their COVID-19 vaccination record.
While everyone who’s been inoculated for COVID-19 should have received a white paper card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detailing where and when they got their shots, state officials said an electronic option will give residents an alternative.
Though 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,” state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said Friday.
More than 22 million Californians have received at least one vaccine dose to date, federal figures show, so “the odds are someone’s going to misplace” their physical record, Pan told reporters.
“This is really no different than someone’s vaccine card,” she said. “It’s an optional tool for Californians to use to be a touch more convenient, and one of many ways people can show and verify that they’ve been vaccinated.”
The new portal, accessible through myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov, pulls from records already maintained within and accessible through the state’s immunization registry systems.
“Obviously right now with the pandemic, folks are just wanting to have their specific COVID records. So this capability is building on the same space,” said Amy Tong, the state’s chief information officer and director of the California Department of Technology.
Once on the new state website, residents will be prompted to provide their name, date of birth, and an email or cellphone number they used when getting their vaccine.
Residents will also need to create a personal identification number that can then be used to access a digital copy of their inoculation record, as well as a scannable QR code.
State officials say those who run into issues accessing the portal should double-check that their information is correct and that they’re using an email address or phone associated with their vaccine record. If problems persist, or if a record is incorrect or incomplete, residents can contact the COVID-19 Hot Line at (833) 422-4255 or request help online through the virtual assistant at cdph.ca.gov/covidvaccinerecord.
Within two hours of California announcing the new portal two residents had already contacted The Times to complain that they had run into issues accessing their records, and that the troubleshooting systems seemed to be overwhelmed.
Gov. Gavin Newsom hinted at the announcement earlier this week — saying an electronic version of a paper vaccination card would soon be available, though it wouldn’t be a “passport” or a requirement.
Officials reemphasized this point in explaining the new portal, writing that residents “are not required to obtain a digital COVID-19 vaccine record” and that “the state will not be implementing a mandatory passport system in California.”
Under California’s reopening guidelines that went into effect this week, the only setting where the state might require someone to prove vaccine status as a condition of entry is an indoor event with at least 5,000 people — such as sporting events or a convention. However, in that case attendees also can submit documentation of a negative coronavirus test to enter.
Proof of vaccination or a negative test is also recommended, though not required, for outdoor events with at least 10,000 attendees.
However, county health officials — as well as individual businesses or venues — can implement more stringent requirements. For instance, San Francisco has ordered that if a venue accepts self-attestation as evidence of vaccination for an indoor event with more than 5,000 people, then everyone inside the venue age 2 and older must wear a mask.
A person’s vaccine status also now plays a major role as far as masks are concerned.
Starting this week, Californians who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 can go without face coverings in most situations. Those who are unvaccinated, on the other hand, are still required to mask up in public indoor settings.
According to the state, businesses or venues can either allow customers to self-attest that they’re vaccinated, require all patrons to wear a mask or implement some kind of vaccine verification system.
Additionally, the state moved Thursday to allow most fully vaccinated employees in many workplaces to stop wearing masks while on the job. Employers have to document the vaccination status of employees if they’re going to go mask-less indoors, but they don’t have to retain copies of vaccine cards and employees can also self-attest.
The new digital record would provide one way forward for those looking for some kind of verification.
“We’re looking for this to be rolled out to whoever wants to use them,” Tong said.
California’s digital record follows in the footsteps of New York, which became the first state in the nation to offer a government-issued digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or of a negative coronavirus test result.
Known as the Excelsior Pass, it was designed by IBM with health data provided by the state’s and New York City’s vaccine databases. Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium have begun accepting it, though they also accept the CDC paper vaccination cards.
With the federal government unwilling to create or endorse a universal digital health pass or app, several technology and health companies are trying to fill the void, including the New York-based technology company Clear, and Carbon Health, a San Francisco healthcare company with 75 primary and urgent care facilities across the country.
Clear’s digital pass gets vaccination data and negative test results from partner companies including Walmart, Sam’s Club and Atlantic Health System. The pass is being accepted by more than 60 organizations in the U.S., including MGM resorts, the San Francisco Giants, NBA arenas and the state of Hawaii.
Carbon Health’s facilities are the source of the vaccination data and negative test results for its digital pass.
Los Angeles Times staff writers Hugo Martín and Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.
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