Home Travel Health Digital Vaccine Passes Become Increasingly Important for Domestic Travel

LAURIE BARATTI  DECEMBER 06, 2021

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Digital COVID-19 vaccination verification app concept. (photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/LeoPatrizi)

As the world heads into its third year of living in pandemic conditions, it’s become painfully clear that the virus won’t be stamped out anytime soon, especially with new, super-mutated COVID-19 strains like the Omicron variant cropping up.

To enable a return to some semblance of normal life in America, more and more U.S. states are coming to the conclusion that they’re going to need a reliable, interoperable framework through which people can prove their vaccination (or testing) status.

As other countries increasingly require proof of vaccination before they’ll permit travelers to enter, the need to provide your personal vaccine records is becoming a like-it-or-not reality outside of U.S. borders. But, even on the domestic side, the call for broadly recognized and instantly verifiable proof of individuals’ COVID-19 status is increasing.

Whether vaccine status verification is required in order to board an international flight, take a cruise, dine at an indoor restaurant, visit an indoor attraction or attend a large-scale event, the convenience of having a digital health pass is likely to become a necessity.

Bindle, which supplies purpose-built software that works as a secure wallet for users’ health records, is currently working with hundreds of clients across over 30 states. “In the past four months, Bindle has seen a 10x increase in inbound requests for our technology,” Bindle CEO Gus Warren told Forbes. The demand increase comes as “more and more locations recognize A) the virus is becoming endemic and B) fraudulent paper credentials are an ongoing issue and challenge,” he explained.

Forbes highlighted evidence that CDC-issued paper vaccination cards can be easily falsified, while surveys indicate that a good percentage of unvaccinated Americans would willingly lie about their vaccination status in order to retain employment or continue attending college.

COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccine. (photo via MarsBars / E+)

Over recent months, the SMART Health Card platform has emerged as the most trusted for vaccination verification among state and provincial governments. It’s now offered in nine states—California, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Utah, Virginia and Washington—and Puerto Rico. Three more—Oregon, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have announced they’ll be launching apps that rely on SMART Health Card technology over the coming weeks.

SMART Health Card was developed by the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), a voluntary coalition of public and private healthcare and technology companies that are committed to providing people with trustworthy and verifiable access to their vaccination records, “in digital or paper form using open, interoperable standards,” the website states.

“We’re working with approximately 20 other states that are not ready to publicly announce the issuance of these credentials, but we’re working with their development teams,” said Brian Anderson, co-founder of the VCI and chief digital health physician at MITRE, a not-for-profit organization that works with the government to tackle national safety challenges.

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Woman providing her COVID-19 vaccination digital health pass to enter a venue. (photo via iStock/Getty Images E+/filadendron)

One of SMART Health Card’s major selling points is its interoperability, which allows the different states’ various verification platforms built on this technology to recognize and work with each other. That’s great news for travelers, whose credentials can be recognized in other parts of the country, and even Canada, which has also adopted SMART Health Card’s digital framework.

Its widespread acceptance on a state and provincial level is a testament to SMART Health Card’s success in creating an effective solution to enable America to safely reopen while also addressing users’ legitimate privacy concerns.

“There’s no central database,” Anderson explained. “All of the private data is encrypted, it’s safe, it’s stored on your device.” The unique QR code that’s pulled up on the SMART Health Card app displays only enough information to identify the individual and connect that identity to their vaccination history—their name, date of birth and vaccination information, including the vaccine type, and the date and location it was administered. Test records will likewise display the users’ legal name and birthdate, the tests’ manufacturer, date it was administered and result.

“Nothing to do with your longitudinal health record or any other sensitive information,” said Anderson. “It’s just the very basic vaccination information, and that is privacy by design. We intended it to be that way.”