Massachusetts joined 12 other U.S. states on Monday in offering a digital certificate to prove that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19. But the state said it was not a first step towards mandatory “vaccine passports”.
While some states use a smartphone app to view a person’s immunization status, Massachusetts uses a website where people can search for information. The website, called My Vax files, checks a person’s name, phone number, and email address against immunization records in the state’s public health database.
This data is then displayed as text and as a QR code which can be quickly scanned using a smartphone app. The record only shows the person’s name, date of birth, date of vaccination, and the vaccines that were used.
A user can take a screenshot of the immunization record and store it on a smartphone, or print it out on a sheet of paper and carry it in a pocket or purse. In addition, the vaccination record can be imported into the Health application of an Apple iPhone. Owners of Apple or Android phones can also download an app called Common Health, created by the Commons project, a nonprofit group that helped design the Massachusetts system. A user can store a copy of their vaccination record in Common Health and launch the app to view their vaccination status.
The Massachusetts system uses a technology standard called the SMART Health Card that was developed in part at Boston Children’s Hospital. SMART has become a de facto US standard for the digital storage of COVID vaccination data. JP Pollak, co-founder of the Commons Project, said that in addition to the 13 states currently using the system, a dozen others are testing it. These include some states that have enacted laws or decrees against vaccination warrants, which would require residents to show proof of vaccination for routine activities like dining out or going to the movies.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has announced that many businesses in the city will be required to apply a vaccine mandate for customers starting January 15. But Gov. Charlie Baker opposed the idea of imposing such rules statewide. Massachusetts officials on Monday stressed that the new service was not intended to pave the way for a vaccination warrant,