California Launches Digital Vaccine Cards But Program Not Mandatory


  • California has launched a digital vaccine verification system.
  • The state has just reopened, so businesses can use the system to enforce protection rules against COVID-19.
  • New York State has a similar program called the Excelsior Pass.
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California has just released a new digital vaccine verification system that residents can use instead of small CDC cards to prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The portal asks Californians to enter certain personal information, including age and date of birth. If the information matches the official records, the user will receive an SMS or email with a link to their digital record, which contains a QR code that can be scanned to prove authenticity.

Digital vaccine cards are not “vaccine passports,” the state says. They only contain the same information as the CDC’s paper maps, and California will not make them mandatory. The digital version is just “one of the options to show proof of vaccination” against the coronavirus, the state says in the FAQ section.

California officially reopened on June 15, removing physical distancing requirements, business capacity limits, and a tier system that varied requirements by county. The state’s nearly 20 million vaccinated residents can use the new system to prove their vaccination status at companies that require it, although most do not verify vaccination.

New York State launched a similar program in March. The Excelsior Pass was built by IBM and allows New Yorkers to attend events that exceed the state’s social gathering limit. The 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden in New York and the 17,500-seat Times Union Center in Albany were both early adopters.

The pass will solve problems for people who have lost their vaccination card, but some may have problems accessing their information. According to Rick Klau, director of technology innovation in California, not all records contain contact information, and some of it may be out of date.

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