Vaccinated residents of Massachusetts beginning Monday will be able to access a digital record of their COVID-19 vaccine history, including a scannable QR code, that could be stored on their smartphone and presented to businesses requiring immunizations for entry.
Massachusetts now has a universal digital method for verifying COVID-19 vaccination status. This great leap forward for those seeking to access businesses and other spaces with vaccination requirements means that this information already maintained by the state is now far more easily accessible by the Bay Staters to whom it belongs. In turn, it brings the potential for a meaningful step back toward normal on the winding path to getting COVID under control.
Previously, the only way to prove vaccination status was to carry around a single-issue physical card with a wallet-unfriendly shape and vulnerability to loss and damage. Now, Massachusetts joins other states, such as our neighbor New York, in adopting a convenient technological method as an alternative.
Making vaccine status verification easier takes a bit of the burden off businesses and citizens alike in the effort to curb COVID’s spread, particularly in those venues with unique transmission risks that have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s social and economic downturns. Those businesses and any others should be able to apply the COVID rules they see fit to protect their staff and customers without worrying about unnecessary hassle. This new option utilizes the mobile devices we carry around anyway to better facilitate that. Helping those corners of the community most affected by the battle on COVID is key, and this stands to be a powerful and easy-to-use weapon in that fight for all who wish to wield it.
COVID-19 SMART Health Card is a universal portal for those who have received their COVID jabs in Massachusetts to access proof to that effect in the form of a QR code that can then be stored in an app or via screenshot on a mobile device. The QR code will only contain the user’s name, birth date and COVID vaccination history along with verification that the record was produced by the state. People can request their own QR code by accessing the Massachusetts Immunization Information System. Meanwhile, the state has also made a verifier app available for download by businesses and others so that verifying a QR code is as easy as scanning from another mobile device.
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The Eagle editorial board has advocated for these sorts of measures since vaccinations began and questions arose about the real-world applicability of vaccination requirements when the aforementioned vaccine cards with their many downsides were the only game in town. We are glad to finally see Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration follow through on earlier promises to get such a system up and running.
Given the polarization endemic to all things COVID, there will be some who reflexively critique this overdue move as unnecessary or invasive. Those who do should note that this information was already curated by state health databases — as vaccination information should be amid a pandemic that has killed more than 20,000 Bay Staters — and this step only makes your own information easier to access. And the nature of the personal information said to pass through the card — name, date of birth and number of COVID vaccine doses — is far less sensitive than the info transmitted with each use of a credit card.
Further, the rollout of the SMART Health Card is not being accompanied by any additional statewide mandates, vaccination-related or otherwise, and the Baker administration has no plans to require its use. Instead, it is wisely making this universal verification methodology available to all, including businesses, empowering them to decide how to navigate the pandemic’s ever-shifting contours. This doesn’t infringe on anyone’s freedom; in fact, it simply frees one from having to tote around their vaccine card if they wish to enter a restaurant or theater that chooses to require proof of vaccination. Some municipalities have adopted their own COVID rules regarding vaccination status, creating a patchwork of incongruent rules in some corners of the commonwealth — all the better that the state has equipped citizens and businesses alike to more easily verify vaccination status with the touch of a smartphone screen.
While we hoped this development could have come along sooner, it’s better late than never that Massachusetts is getting a simple, universal, digital method for furnishing proof of vaccination at businesses that choose to require it.