Coronavirus

Charlie Baker says Massachusetts is looking into a ‘more universal’ proof of COVID-19 vaccination system

"I certainly think it's going to be an important thing for people to have."

Gov. Charlie Baker addresses the crowd at an event at the Omni Boston Seaport hotel last week. Lane Turner / The Boston Globe

Massachusetts residents could have a better way to show they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 than a paper card in the near future.

Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday afternoon during an appearance on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio” that the state is working through how to potentially create a “more universal” system for showing COVID-19 vaccination proof.

“We’ve been talking to the states that have developed this and it’s certainly something that,” Baker said, cutting himself off.

“I just happen to think that getting to the point where there’s a relatively simple process for people to credential the fact that they’ve been vaccinated will be important for a whole bunch of reasons,” he added.

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Baker added that residents “for the most part” already can access proof of vaccination through the provider from whom they got their shots.

However, some states like Minnesota and New York have created their own digital apps allowing residents to carry around verified documentation on their smartphones that they got the COVID-19 vaccine. Another app, called MyIR Mobile, provides residents in Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, Washington, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia digital access to their vaccination records.

“Obviously there are states and municipalities that have done something more universal than that,” Baker said Thursday, “and we’ve been talking to those folks and working through how that would work here in the Commonwealth.”

Asked if that meant such a system was “likely” in the future, Baker said, “I certainly think it’s going to be an important thing for people to have, but again you can validate and verify that you’ve been vaccinated right now.”

A spokesman for Baker declined to comment further Thursday afternoon.

Baker had resisted talk of so-called vaccine passports this past spring, at a time when the general public remained ineligible for shots in Massachusetts.

So far, no Massachusetts communities have followed cities like New York City or San Francisco in requiring proof of vaccination for indoor venues like restaurants, gyms, and theaters. However a growing number of restaurants, bars, clubs, music venues, and theaters have individually opted to require vaccination proof for entrance.

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To meet those requirements, Massachusetts residents generally have the option of showing their physical vaccination card or a picture of it on their phone.

At the same time, such requirements have spawned a booming black market of illegal fake vaccine cards; a U.S. Customs and Border Protection representative told NBC News that the agency has intercepted thousands of packages of fake cards from China that “we basically stopped keeping track, because there were so many.”

Baker’s radio appearance Thursday came a week after President Joe Biden announced plans to require employers with more than 100 workers to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or regular testing. The governor said Thursday that he was hesitant to comment on the order, because he hadn’t seen the specific details beyond a “a press release and a speech.”

In the meantime, Baker said he planned to “lead by example,” noting that he has ordered tens of thousands of state government workers and contractors to get the COVID-19 vaccine or face potential termination.

He added that part of the reason for the requirement was to “send a message that we think this is appropriate policy for employers to consider doing with their own workforces.”

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