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Digital COVID-19 vaccine 'passport' could keep records readily available for travel, events

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Posted at 2:37 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 14:37:35-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many people might be itching to go to that concert or on that big vacation but worry about who's vaccinated against COVID-19 or not. The ticket to all those places you love could be right on your phone.

Major corporations, like Cerner in Kansas City, are working on a project that will digitally store your COVID-19 vaccination records, called the Vaccination Credential Initiative.

"It will be a stimulation for our travel economy for people getting out and about again," said Mark Ebbitts, president of Shelton Travel Service.

Ebbitts said it'll be a more convenient way for people to prove they got a COVID vaccine if they're required to, before they go on a cruise, get on a flight, or go overseas.

"It's got to be big, and it will be big once it comes out," Ebbitts said. "They want to be sure that you're vaccinated. The way they do that now is you have to take a COVID test anywhere from 3-5 days before you go someplace. And the U.S. now requires you have a three-day test before you come back."

Your records will be encrypted on a QR code (like a bar code) that is unique to you. Cerner compares it to the Google or Apple wallet feature where you have your credit cards, concert tickets, or airline tickets readily available.

If you don't have a smartphone, the QR code can be mailed to you to print out.

"Embedded in that QR code will actually be the core information about who you are, where you received your vaccine, which version of the vaccine," said Dick Flanigan, senior vice president at Cerner. "And making that available in as modest a form, the smallest amount of information as necessary, to do one thing: to validate you've had a credible vaccine from a credible supplier."

Flanigan said Cerner is among companies such as Oracle, Microsoft and not-for-profit companies like Mitre and The Commons Project that are working to build the project's digital infrastructure through state agencies and healthcare providers.

"I think the concern would be maybe a little bit of privacy knowing that your passport, your medical information is sitting out there on your phone," Ebbitts said. "But those are not as overwhelming as the benefit of getting out and traveling."

Flanigan said testing will happen in the spring to show that it's safe and private.

"I'd say you'll see some great demonstration projects by spring and, hopefully, by mid-summer you'll see this available and in wide use," Flanigan said.

This story was first published by Sarah Plake at KSHB.

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