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California unveils online tool for vaccine verification

California introduced a digital verification tool Friday allowing people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to access their immunization record and show it to businesses or other venues that may require proof of vaccination for entry.

The free system essentially digitizes the paper vaccination cards given to people after they get their shots. To sign up, Californians can go to a state website,, enter their name, date of birth and a phone number, and create a four-digit PIN. They will then receive a link to their digital vaccine record that will open upon entering the PIN. It is not linked to a mobile app, so people must take a screenshot of the record to save it in a phone.

The digital record will show the same information as the paper card: name, date of birth, dates of vaccinations and vaccine manufacturer. It will also include a QR code that can be scanned by entertainment venues, stadiums or businesses checking people’s verification status. Whoever scans the code can see the same information but cannot copy or store it, state officials said.

The system can also be used for travel, since many countries now require verification of vaccination status, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said. However, Gov. Gavin Newsom has said it is not akin to a vaccine passport, a state-issued pass that enables vaccinated people to enter places that require people to be inoculated.

Although the state “recommends that vaccinated Californians keep their paper … card in a safe and secure place, we recognize that some people might prefer an electronic version,” Pan said. “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.”

The system follows national standards for security and privacy, said Amy Tong, the state’s chief information officer and director of the Department of Technology. The department built the tool using information from the state’s immunization registry.

The QR code cannot be replicated by someone trying to create a counterfeit digital vaccination record, said Rick Klau, the state’s chief technology innovation officer. The QR code contains a digital signature from the entity that issued the vaccine record; when scanned, the signature is confirmed as a record that exists in the immunization registry. With a counterfeit version, the digital signature would fail, he said.

California opted not to use a mobile app as part of its digital verification system. At least two other states are using apps, most notably New York, which in March became the first state to offer a government-issued vaccine pass. Its app, Excelsior Pass, has been downloaded by 2 million people and is used to enter Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium and other public venues.

In May, Hawaii introduced a digital vaccine pass that allows fully vaccinated state residents to travel between islands.

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