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Massachusetts residents are getting a couple of new options on their phone this week to show they’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, as more communities and businesses move to make vaccination a requirement for certain activities.
The first — released Monday by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration — provides individuals and businesses a scannable code that links directly to the user’s documented vaccine history.
The second — coming later this week from the City of Boston — gives users a simpler way of showing a photo of their COVID-19 vaccine card on their phone.
The new tools come as several cites and towns in Massachusetts, including Boston, move to require proof of vaccination for certain indoor venues, such as restaurants, fitness centers, museums, and other entertainment and event settings.
Baker has repeatedly said his administration has no plans for any statewide vaccine requirement for indoor venues like restaurants. However, an administration official said Monday that the state’s new tool is a standardized option for individuals and businesses where such requirements are in place.
The City of Boston will require patrons aged 12 and up show they’ve gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose in order to enter certain businesses starting this Saturday, as part of the first phase of their new policy. Many local restaurants and indoor performance venues, like TD Garden, have already independently begun requiring the vaccine.
Here’s what you need to know:
Baker’s administration released a new online tool that plugs into the state’s vaccination record registry, allowing residents to access their history and generate a digital COVID-19 vaccine card that can be saved on their phone.
However, the state’s new tool — My Vax Records — isn’t an app.
Rather, it can be accessed online at www.myvaxrecords.mass.gov, where individuals are prompted to enter their name, date of birth, and a cellphone number or email that may be associated with their vaccine record.
(Residents should probably first try using their cellphone number; according to a state technology official, the “vast majority” of Massachusetts Immunization Information System records are associated with a cellphone number, while most do not currently include email addresses.)
After creating a four-digit PIN number, users will get a text or email with a website link to their vaccine record, which shows their entire immunization history, including any COVID-19 primary series shots and boosters.
The digital record also includes a SMART Health Card with a QR code that businesses using an accompanying SMART Health Card Verifier app can scan and view the user.
iPhone users can save to the QR code to their Apple Wallet and Health app. Android users can take a screenshot of the QR code or save it to their Google Pay or Samsung Pay wallets via the CommonHealth app (iPhone users can also of course screenshot the code to store on their phone).
State officials released a video tutorial of the process Monday. There are also additional tips for saving the smart card to one’s phone on the state website.
State officials say there are a number of potential reasons why a resident’s vaccine records might not show up — including if they got their shots out of state or if their vaccine provider did not upload their contact information.
If a user’s information does not match current MIIS records, they’ll get a link to the state’s frequently asked questions page, which suggests double-checking the information they provided, contacting their COVID-19 vaccine provider, or making an online MIIS amendment request.
While administration officials acknowledged that many individuals may need to take additional steps to access their vaccination record through the new tool, they argued it was more comprehensive and verifiable than simply storing a photo of one’s vaccine card on their phone.
Around a dozen other states are using the SMART Health Card platform, including California, which Massachusetts officials pointed to for having the most similar system.
The Baker administration also recently notified health care providers of their plans to utilize the MIIS system for the digital vaccine card, urging providers to make sure their records are updated.
However, the digital card itself will not automatically update. So if someone gets an additional vaccine shot, like a booster, they’ll have to get a new QR code through the original portal once their MIIS information is updated.
People willing to wait a few more days will also have another more simple — if less forgery-proof — option for displaying their vaccination records.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration is planning to roll out its own digital vaccine card proof app ahead of the first phase of the city’s “B Together” vaccination requirement policy taking effect this Saturday.
Modeled off of New York City’s “NYC COVID SAFE” app, the B Together app will allow users to store a photo of their vaccination card, according to Wu’s office.
In the interest of simplicity, Wu’s office says the app will only require users to enter their name and then can upload an existing photo of their vaccine card or take a new photo using their phone’s camera. They will also be able to upload and display the vaccine cards of children and family members.
Wu’s office says they consulted with New York City officials on the rollout of their app, though it is being designed and managed in-house.
The app does not require users to provide any official form of identification, nor does it plug into any official vaccination records. City officials say all data is only stored locally on your phone, and that the app won’t track your location or share any data with other entities for the sake of privacy.
“We want to make it as easy as possible to show that you’re vaccinated to enter indoor dining, fitness or entertainment venues,” a city official told Boston.com.
Wu’s office says the app will be ready Saturday in English, Spanish, and simplified Chinese, with more languages to be added later on.
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