States are hesitant to adopt digital verification of the COVID vaccine

Customers who want to come, eat and relax to live music at the City Winery’s teaching restaurant in New York must show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to enter. But this is not necessary in most other culinary establishments in the city. And it’s not needed at other city winery sites in the United States

If City Winery tried to do something similar at its locations in Atlanta and Nashville, “we wouldn’t have business, because so many people are fundamentally against it,” said CEO Michael Dorf.

Across the United States, many hard-hit companies eager to return to normalcy have been reluctant to demand vaccination tests from customers. And the public and politicians in many places have made it clear that they don’t care about the idea.

In fact, many more states have banned vaccination testing policies that have created smartphone-based programs so that people can numerically show their vaccination status.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention always recommends masks when eating or gathering at home for those who are not completely vaccinated. But few states require it, and most companies rely on voluntary compliance – even in areas with low vaccination rates where COVID-19 cases escalate.

Digital vaccine verification programs could make it easier to enforce safeguards and attack new outbreaks.

“But that only works when you have mass adoption, and mass adoption requires proper trust and acquisition with what the state health department does, which is not necessarily present in all states,” he said. Alan Butler, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit organization in Washington.

Hawaii is the only state that requires a version of a vaccine passport. Ask travelers to upload a photo or PDF of their vaccination document in Hawaii or pass a COVID-19 test before arrival to avoid having to be quarantined for 10 days.

Earlier this month, California became only the third state – behind New York and Louisiana – to offer residents a way to voluntarily view digital proof of their COVID-19 shots. None of these states requires the use of their digital verification systems to access public or private places.

In contrast, at least 18 states led by Republican or legislative governors prohibit the creation of so-called vaccination passports or prohibit public entities from requiring a vaccination test. Many of those – including Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota and Texas – also prevent most businesses from denying service to those who are not vaccinated.

“Texas is 100% open, and we want to make sure you have the freedom to go where you want without limits,” said Gov. Greg Abbott signing a law against vaccine passports.

The prohibition does not apply to requests that employers make to their employees. Earlier this month, a federal judge in Texas filed a lawsuit against 117 Houston hospital employees who challenged a work requirement for vaccinations. More than 150 were later fired or resigned for failing to have their shots fired.

In Louisiana, under a bill passed by Republicans in the face of a potential veto by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, the public facility would not be allowed to ban unvaccinated people until COVID-19 vaccines have received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Vaccines for now are dispensed under FDA emergency authorization.

In May, Louisiana launched a program that allows residents using the state’s digital driver’s license, LA Wallet, to add a record of their COVID-19 vaccination.

But its scope is still limited. About 105,000 people have activated the COVID-19 verification feature. It is about 14% of those with a digital license and less than 4% of the 3.1 million people in Louisiana with valid driver’s licenses.

Ted James, who wrote the project to create the digital driver’s license, said he used the feature only once – to show an Uber driver in Nevada that he didn’t need to put on a mask. But James said he has never been asked to show it in Louisiana and that he has doubts.

“At the beginning of the year, I had the feeling that at some point we would be limited in travel, going to certain places, unless we had the vaccine,” James said. Now, “I don’t expect to ever have any kind of requirement.”

As a step into reopening, New York in March launched its Excelsior Pass, the first state-owned system to provide digital COVID-19 vaccination tests or a recent negative test. By early June, more than 2 million people had obtained the digital pass – about a fifth of those who had been vaccinated.

In Basement City, most customers bypass the Excelsior Pass and instead show their CDC vaccination cards on paper to access, according to Dorf, who said owners at the 1,000-person capacity venue “appreciate the go into a safety bubble, knowing that everyone around them is vaccinated. ”

Although larger ticketing events, such as concerts at Madison Square Garden, require a vaccination test, most companies do not request it.

“Think of a bar,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance. “You have four friends coming in – maybe two of them have it, the other two don’t. Are you going to turn the other two around when small businesses are struggling so much?”

Although most states have moved away from creating digital vaccination verification systems, the technology may soon become widespread however.

Vaccine providers such as Walmart and major healthcare systems have already agreed to make COVID-19 digital vaccination records available to customers. Apple also plans to incorporate the vaccination verification feature into a software update coming this fall.

In a few months, hundreds of millions of people in the United States will be able to access digital copies of their COVID-19 vaccination records, said Brian Anderson, head of digital health at MITER Corp., a nonprofit that is part of a coalition of health and technology organizations. who developed such technology.

People will receive QR codes that can be stored on smartphones or printed on paper to be scanned by anyone looking for vaccine verification. Those who scan the codes will not retain any information – a protection designed to respond to privacy concerns.

The California Chamber of Commerce said it welcomes the state’s new vaccine verification system as a way for employers to verify their employees. California regulations require most employees who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks when dealing with others at home.

Numerical verification of vaccines “allows an employer who really wants to ensure that the workplace is vaccinated to demand that without having the impossible problem of” John says he is vaccinated but has lost his vaccination card. What do we do? This solves this problem, ”said Rob Moutrie, California Chamber of Commerce policy advocate.

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