While verification of an individual’s Covid-19 vaccination status has been a political hot potato since the pandemic began, it has also become clear that Americans need quick and easy access their own health information for a variety of reasons—including for travel at home and abroad.
International travelers have become used to having to prove their vaccination status at one or more stages of their journeys. For example, visitors to Canada are required to download the free ArriveCAN app to prove their vaccination status before crossing the border. And since a week ago, the vaccination and testing status of travelers coming into the United States — including Americans returning home — is being vetted by airlines through digital mobile applications that travelers must download before checking in to their flights. And there’s a recent push by some members of Congress to apply those requirements to domestic air travel, too.
Meanwhile, more establishments across the U.S. — from sports stadiums and concert venues to museums, theaters and more — are requiring patrons to show digital verification of Covid vaccination and testing status as a condition for entry.
“Our proof of health platform is in use now at over 250 locations around the U.S.—that’s up from 35 over the summer, so we’re seeing explosive growth,” says Gus Warren, CEO of Bindle, a new health verification app that allows people to prove their health status whenever they go into a shared space. Bindle’s growing list of clients spans 30 states, from blue strongholds like California and New York to red leaners like Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Missouri and Georgia.
Much of Bindle’s appeal, says Warren, is that it is both secure and easy to travel with. “It’s a completely decentralized system, using something called the Hyperledger based on blockchain technology,” he says. “We don’t store any data on the device or in our database. All of the information is stored in what’s called a personal data locker in the cloud, and it’s encrypted with a key that lives on your phone.”
“It’s all based on open interoperable standards, including the SMART Health card, and it’s not the only one that we support,” says Warren.
But it’s certainly the most important one. The SMART Health Card has emerged as not only the most trusted standard but the one with the greatest traction. The verifiable digital proof of vaccination was developed by a large consortium of private-public partnership of technology and health care companies called the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), which includes Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, the Mayo Clinic and other heavyweights.
“SMART Health Cards have emerged as the de facto standard in the U.S. for verifying COVID-19 vaccination status,” said Dr. Robert Wah, U.S. Board Chair of the Commons Project Foundation, a co-chair of VCI. “More than 150 million people can now download or print their SMART Health Card as a QR code to manage and share their vaccination record.”
When the QR code is pulled up, only the individual’s name, date of birth and vaccination information is visible. No other medical information or personal data is shared. This code is also digitally signed to ensure that the card was issued from a verified location and to prevent forgery.
For former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, a Republican who was the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration, the issue boils down to individual rights. “There’s always a question about who owns the data and the rights to access that data,” Leavitt said at the recent global forum on SMART Health Cards. “But one thing is unchallengeable. And that is, I own a right to have my own data. And to have it in a form that I can present it conveniently for the kinds of things I want to do.”
Wondering how to find out if you can get digital proof of vaccination? Here’s where to turn.
States Offering Digital Proof of Vaccination
The logical place to begin looking for a digital proof of vaccination is where you were vaccinated. Every state’s health department keeps track of immunization records and can tell you whether it’s possible to get a digital proof of your Covid status. Start by finding your state on the CDC’s list of state and regional immunization registries.
In just the past three months, the number of states offering SMART Health Cards has more than doubled. Now nine states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Utah, Virginia and Washington — currently offer their residents access to a SMART Health Card.
If your state does not offer a SMART solution, perhaps your county does. Maryland does not offer a statewide SMART Health Card but residents of Calvert County, Carroll County, Charles County, Harford County, St. Mary’s County, Talbot County and Wicomico County can get a free SMART Health Card through a partnership with VaccineCheck. (And, regardless of where you live, you can subscribe to VaccineCheck for $24.95 per year to get a verified digital vaccination card.)
Healthcare Providers Offering Digital Proof of Vaccination
No matter whether your state is red or blue, your healthcare provider or health insurance company might be able to provide you with a digital vaccination record. Dozens of major health systems and hospital groups across the country now offer SMART Health Cards to patients. These include Kaiser Permanente, Tenet Health, Scripps Healthcare, Cerner and other healthcare heavy hitters. Big regional healthcare groups in the SMART consortium span the country, from Centra Health in Virginia to UCHealth in Colorado and from CoxHealth in Missouri to SoutheastHEALTH in Alabama and Georgia.
Pharmacy and Grocery Chains Offering Digital Proof of Vaccination
You can also obtain a free SMART Health Card if you were vaccinated at any branch of Walmart, Sam’s Club, CVS, Duane Reade, Walgreens, Costco, Kroger, Rite-Aid or any of the dozens of other companies participating in the retail pharmacy program. To access an electronic version of your vaccination record, log into the online Covid portal of the brand where you got your shots.
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