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Opinion: Keep your proof of vaccinations handy and digital

Ready to ditch your yellow vaccination card? Online options will keep track of every one of your immunizations, including those COVID-19 shots

There are online options to keep track of every one of your immunizations, including those COVID-19 shots.
A man holds his vaccination reminder card after having received his first shot at a pop-up vaccination site next to Maximo Gomez Park, also known as Domino Park, Monday, May 3, 2021, in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami.
Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Nearly half of all Americans age 12 and older are now fully vaccinated for COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means hundreds of millions of people are in possession of white vaccination cards that are too big to fit in a wallet or phone case.

Which begs the question, do you desire to have proof of vaccination with you at all times? I do, for the same reason I always have a current passport: just in case. But as someone who does not carry a purse or wallet, I have decided to carry my immunization record with me digitally.

Of course the easiest, quickest way is to simply take a photo of the card. But digital apps are a good solution for those looking for ways to keep track of all their vaccinations, not just those for COVID-19.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month that the private sector will take the lead in creating digital ways to store that information, Reuters reported.

“There will be no centralized universal federal vaccinations database, and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” she said.

Which means local governments, businesses and other organizations will decide whether to use a digital immunization app for proof of vaccinations, and which one to use.

U.S. News and World Report points out many states, including Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Texas, South Carolina and others that “have issued executive orders prohibiting vaccine passports/requirements in some regard,” according to James Nash, press secretary for the National Governors Association.

But other state and local governments have already put immunization apps into action.

New York State is using the Excelsior Pass app for residents to have quick access to immunization records. Fans can already use the app for entry to the KeyBank Center for National Hockey League games.

Alaska is launching MyIR Mobile for people to keep track of vaccination records. Alaska Public Media reports tens of thousands of people in several other states have been using the platform for years for access to their records.

I received my second COVID-19 shot in May. The Utah state health department handed me a flyer afterward with information about an immunization records app right at the top. My state has partnered with the Docket app to allow Utahns access to the state’s immunization registries.

To sign in to the app, you need to give your name, birth date and legal sex. It quickly found my records but wanted to verify my identity by sending a code to a phone number. The problem was that they had some old home phone number of mine that no longer exists. My only other option was to say that the phone number didn’t look familiar. Although that wasn’t true, I clicked it. The app then told me to contact my health care provider, pharmacist, health department or school nurse to get a PIN I could input instead.

If you run into this same situation, here are helpful hints when you make that phone call.

  • Tell the person to whom you inquire that the app is looking for your Utah Statewide Immunization System (USIIS) PIN.
  • Once I received that PIN from my local health department and entered it into the app, all my immunization records popped up. It will tell you when you received each immunization and whether you have one due.
  • Users can add the records of any children under age 18 to their account as well.

The app is encrypted and HIPAA compliant.

Docket says on the app that you can use the app “to provide proof of immunizations as needed (e.g. back to school season).”

But there’s no guarantee the app will be accepted anywhere, including your school. Although the app does allow you to print out or share useful immunization forms with all of your info.

Jenny Johnson with the Utah Department of Health told me the app is most useful as a simple way for consumers to have access to their records.

“Just because you can use this app, if someone is requiring proof of vaccination, I’m not sure a school would accept someone showing a mobile app for verification,” she said.

She pointed out it is up to individual companies or destinations or organizations to decide whether they will accept certain types of vaccine verifications, including digital ones.

I have yet to go anywhere where proof of a COVID-19 vaccination is necessary, but for now I will keep my Docket app handy with the records it has from my state’s immunization registries. I will also keep a photo of my COVID-19 vaccination card in my camera roll.

And I will rejoice that I no longer have to dig through my filing cabinet for those yellow immunization cards ever again.

Amy Iverson is a graduate of the University of Utah. She has worked as a broadcast journalist in Dallas, Seattle, Italy and Salt Lake City.