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California will soon have a COVID-19 vaccine verification system — but it’s not a passport

California is adding a new vaccine verification feature so people can prove they’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccine

California Governor Gavin Newsom at Universal Studios in Universal City, California.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom gives a thumbs-up after a news conference at Universal Studios in Universal City, Calif., on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. California will soon have an electronic COVID-19 verification program.
Ringo H.W. Chiu, Associated Press

California will soon have an electronic COVID-19 verification program — which is definitely, totally not a COVID-19 passport.

What is the California COVID-19 verification policy?

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week that the state would add a new electronic verification system so people can show whether or not they’ve been vaccinated.

  • “It’s not a passport, it’s not a requirement, it’s just the ability now to have an electronic version of that paper version, so you’ll hear more about that in the next couple of days,” he said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Newsom said the verification would be an electronic version of the COVID-19 vaccine card.

In theory, you would need to download an app on your phone, create an account, upload your vaccine information and show a QR code when you enter a place that needs COVID-19 vaccine verification, according to San Francisco Chronicle.

  • (Just a note here — when I got my COVID-19 vaccine in February (#TeamModerna), the officials there told me to snap a photo of my vaccine card with my phone. So this is essentially that process, but with an app.)

Vaccine passports, explained

There has been concern about the potential of vaccine passports, which, in theory, would allow people to show they’re vaccinated in order to attend specific events or visit specific locations.

Florida and Texas both placed bans and limits on vaccination certificates and programs, forbidding businesses to require them.

  • “Vaccine passports are now prohibited in the Lone Star State,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, according to the Dallas Morning News.
  • As the Deseret News reported, Utah has barred state and local governments from having a “vaccine passport.” Even the Biden administration has suggested there won’t be any such passports in Washington, D.C.

But we’ve seen some similar moves as California. For example, New York has a voluntary digital pass called the “Excelsior Pass,” which shows people’s COVID-19 vaccine status or COVID-19 test results needed before entering an event, according to The New York Times.

  • So it’s working for some, not working for others. But it appears California will try out a similar program soon.
  • “Honestly, it’s very confusing,” Brian Hollien, president of Salt Lake City-based Morris Murdock Travel, told the Deseret News. “There is great confusion regarding the need for vaccine passports.”