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California’s not-a-passport digital vaccine verification system is here

If you’re worried about losing your CDC card, you can now get a QR code in addition.

Michael Juliano
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Michael Juliano
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Don’t go and toss your probably already-creased paper CDC card, but if you happen to lose your proof of vaccination, the state is now providing a digital alternative.

California today rolled out a portal that lets you receive a digital record of your Covid-19 vaccine. Though it’s not clear yet just how widespread its adoption will be among businesses and events, very few of which even need to verify your vax status, you can now register for a QR code that offers a smartphone-friendly replacement for your paper card. (It’s worth noting that L.A. County actually already has a service like this in place that allows you to add proof of your vaccine to Apple Wallet.)

If you’re thinking, well that sounds like a passport, the state insists that it’s technically not for a few key reasons. For starters, you’re not required to have one. It’s “no different from someone’s vaccine card,” California’s state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan explains, rather it’s simply “optional and more convenient.” Then there’s the fact that outside of some large-scale events, it’s unlikely you’ll need to regularly verify your vaccination status to begin with. And even among those “mega events,” venues can choose to let attendees self-attest to their vax status instead of offering bona fide proof.

To register for your verification, you’ll need to head to myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov and enter your name, date of birth and either the email or cell phone number you used when you got your vaccine. You’ll set a four-digit PIN, which you’ll then need to reenter in a unique link that’ll be emailed or texted to you.

And that’s it, really. Once you’ve verified your PIN, you’ll find a QR code with some basic info about your Covid-19 vaccine history below it. There’s no official app nor is there Apple Wallet or Google Pay integration baked in (you could theoretically try scanning the QR and manually adding it yourself). It’s simply a webpage, so we suggest saving a screenshot to keep it handy. 

As far as security goes, none of your personal date is stored in the QR code itself. And the state says it’s more secure than an easily-counterfeited paper card; each QR code is digitally signed, so when someone scans it, the code is then confirmed as authentic against the state’s vaccination registry. But businesses will need to wait for VCI, the coalition that’s built the framework, to create an official reader for the QR code aspect to really be useful. Once that’s up, businesses that scan your code will see the same personal info that’s on your CDC card: your name, date of birth, dates of vaccination and the vaccine manufacturer (this is all also visible on the digital version). None of that info will be stored with the businesses, per the open source SMART Health Card Framework that the system is built on.

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