L.A. County digital COVID shot record not meant to be ‘vaccine passport’

Those vaccinated in Los Angeles County have been getting digital records of their COVID-19 shots to download to their iPhones, and the company behind them says they can be used to prove vaccination, but they don’t work like a scannable “vaccine passports.”

The digital records have been sent out to more than 2 million people in L.A. County, according to Healthvana, a health portal that’s also been sending some Angelenos their coronavirus test results.

A link to the vaccine record arrives in text messages and emails from Healthvana sometime after people get their shots. The linked page prompts the user to enter their name and date of birth, then click to add the record to their Apple wallets just as they would with plane or concert tickets.

The record lists the person’s name, type of vaccine they got, the dates each dose was administered and includes L.A. County’s seal and a QR code.

But when scanned, the codes go to a static informational page on Healthvana’s website, not to a different unique page with personal information on the holder. It can’t be scanned by a venue to verify the proof of vaccination like the Excelsior Pass app New York is using but does explain what it is if a business does scan it.

“We don’t view this as a passport,” Healthvana CEO Ramin Bastani told KTLA. “We view this first and foremost as your medical record protected by HIPAA.”

The digital record has less information than the CDC vaccine card everyone gets after being inoculated, Bastani emphasized.

“If you’re going to a party, or you’re going to a particular event, or your employer makes you, you can show your digital vaccination record, or your card, and they’ll compare it to a government issued ID,” he explained.

“You’re showing it to whoever you want, if you ever want to,” he said.

Asked about potentially using the technology to let L.A. venues scan people in, Bastani said Healthvana has the ability to provide that service and is in talks with venues, but there doesn’t seem to be interest from the public to do that.

“We may work with people in the future and do that,” Bastani told KTLA. “We’re talking to some of the largest event planning companies or venues in the country, including some locally, but what we’re seeing, broadly across the United States, is that people don’t want to be scanned in.”

California has been incentivizing venues to require proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test by letting the businesses host guests at a larger capacity when they verify the safeguards. But state officials have repeatedly stressed that they won’t be requiring COVID-19 vaccine “passports.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has also said that the federal government will not require Americans to have them.

The idea of requiring such passports has generated backlash, with some calling it government overreach and raising concerns about whether mandating them would create inequities since not everyone has access to a smart phone. Florida’s governor has already issued an executive order saying no governmental entity can issue a vaccine passport, and businesses in that state can’t require them.

For Healthvana, it’s not about making passes but about making sure people have access to their vaccine information, especially if their CDC card is lost or damaged, Bastani said.

“This is your medical information first and foremost, if the federal government decides to change something else, we can certainly change with what’s happening,” he said.

People have already been using the records to prove they got their shots to airlines and schools, according to Bastani.

L.A. County Department of Public Health’s website says the CDC card is the official proof of COVID-19 vaccination, but digital records are additionally being sent out, and Healthvana is sending them to those who got vaccinated at L.A. city and county-operated sites — “but it may not be accepted at all places/companies as the official proof of vaccination.”

Healthvana’s CEO said that he hasn’t heard of any examples of anyone not accepting the digital record as proof, because it’s coming from the county.

“We’re just the conduit, the pipes to get the information from the county, back to the patients in a way they can use in case they lose their card,” Bastani said.

When people get their shots, L.A. County cleans up the data for any misspellings and then sends it to Healthvana to distribute to patients.

Still, as million get vaccinated in the county, the company has been dealing with thousands of requests from people to adjusts misspellings in their names.

Soon, people who get one dose in L.A. County and a second dose elsewhere will be able to upload a CDC vaccination card and get the digital record.

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