Confused about California’s new digital COVID-19 vaccine record?

Q&A explains what the information will be used for and how it can be accessed.

Californians can now register for digital proof of their COVID-19 vaccination through a state portal designed to offer convenient, secure access.

Signing up for the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record, which is voluntary, provides a digital version of the paper vaccine cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The record includes a scannable QR code that can pull up the record and also confirms authenticity. The record can be stored on a digital device or printed, according to the California Department of Public Health.

"While CDPH 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, state epidemiologist, said June 18 in a statement. "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."

COVID-19 records show proof of vaccination.
The state's digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record serves as a back-up for the CDC-issued paper documentation.

Here’s how the digital records can be accessed, used and corrected.

Is this a so-called “vaccine passport”?

No, California officials have said the state will not implement a mandatory passport system. Registration is optional and is intended to provide a portable alternative to carrying the paper card. The record cannot be accessed by schools, employers or businesses unless you choose to share it.

How do I sign up?

Visit the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record portal at https://myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov. The form will ask for your name, date of birth, and the email address or phone number associated with your vaccination record. Next, you must create a four-digit PIN.

If the information matches the state’s immunization registry records, you will receive an email or text message with a link to your digital record and QR code. Enter your PIN for access.

What will the record show?

The record indicates your name, date of birth, date or dates of when you got the vaccine and which one. It does not include other personal details such as your address, Social Security number or immigration status.

Who can access my information?

State officials say only you can decide if you want to share your record with others. The link can only be accessed via PIN and is sent only to the phone number or email associated with your immunization record.

The state record uses the SMART Health Card Framework, which follows national standards for security and privacy. If you are at a venue that can read SMART Health Cards, you can show the QR code for scanning. If you choose to do so, CDPH says you can ask organizations that scan the QR code how they will use your data or if they will keep it.

Where might proof of vaccination be required?

California’s reopening guidelines say that for indoor events with at least 5,000 people, such as sporting events, concerts or conventions, attendees must provide either proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter.

A number of colleges, including the University of California system, will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff this fall. Proof of vaccination is also required by some cruise lines and international air travel destinations.

"We worked with CDPH, tech industry leaders, and consulted with California's top businesses, service and event purveyors to create a system that works well for all sectors," Amy Tong, state CIO and director of the California Department of Technology, said in a statement.

How does this compare to other electronic vaccine records?

The state record differs from some other platforms by including a scannable QR code that calls up the vaccine record. In contrast, the Healthvana record used by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health includes a QR code that links to the Healthvana website without sharing patient information, according to the company.

Some vaccine providers are using the same Smart Health Card technology as the state portal. Walmart recently announced free access to digital vaccine records through the platform.

What if my information doesn’t show up in the portal or is wrong?

If your record isn’t found, if a dose is missing, or if the dates or vaccine manufacturer are wrong, visit cdph.ca.gov/covidvaccinerecord or call the state’s COVID-19 Information Line at 833-422-4255.

What if I used the same phone number or email for my family members’ appointments?

Enter each person one at a time to receive a separate link for each record.

How should I store the digital record?

State officials advise taking a screenshot of your record, saving the QR code on your phone’s camera roll, or printing a copy to store somewhere safe.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations and tests.

Courtney Perkes is the author of this article.   

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