More GOP states now wagering on vaccine ‘passports’ technology

“We’re starting to see some jurisdictions that have taken a very strict stance:‘ We’re not going to put any QR codes on anything, ’we look at it again with fresh eyes and say,‘ Okay, it’s really not a passport. It’s really just an evolution of the record that is moving into the digital age, “said Rebecca Coyle, executive director of the American Vaccine Registry Association. “A paper record that translates to digital or paper format provides some additional security.”

The change in attitudes in states that once fluctuated underscores the attraction of digital records for states and the growing desire of patients to have access to information about their health.

Many Republicans, led by Republicans, have banned the notion of “passports” or any evidence of vaccination requirements for entry into certain places, arguing that they interfere with personal choice. But an increasing number of states are adopting SMART health cards, which have become de facto national standards, and more than 20 states are adopting or developing digital recording technology.

Many states in the south are some of those working to adopt the technology, but have not yet made public announcements, said Brian Anderson, MITER’s chief digital physician, co-founder of the vaccination initiative behind SMART Health cards. Card.

The Vaccination Credential Initiative is a consortium of medical and technology companies that includes Apple, Microsoft and the Mayo Clinic. SMART Health Cards are available appeared across the country when the Biden administration fell silent on the issuance of standards for credentials after earlier stating it would work with companies to develop vaccine passport fences but not issue them. About 200 million Americans can get a SMART Health Card, said Anderson, which can issue states, health systems and pharmacies such as Walgreens, Walmart and CVS.

Given political concerns, officials in some states are not heavily promoting the technology, including Utah, which deployed Covid-19 digital credentials last fall after initially working on technology before the pandemic to help with school vaccine demands. At the time he launched Covid-19, state lawmakers passed a law banning the use of state vaccines, making the marketing boost unpleasant for some officials.

“They hesitated because it looked like the state was insisting on a vaccine passport,” said John Reid, Utah’s immunization information system manager.

In South Carolina, where Republican Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an ordinance banning government organizations from developing or issuing standard passports to confirm vaccination status, SMART Health Cards are not yet working, but are expected to be available by the end of March. said Stephen White, director of immunization at the state’s Department of Health. When they are launched, the state will advertise them through press releases and social media, he said.

“I’m more afraid … we get a whole bunch of calls from a whole bunch of people who don’t have their information on the registry,” White said, adding that there was no backlash from the state government. “This is not a passport. Essentially, it’s a Covid card that people get at a convenient time because it’s their record. They should have access to it. “

White expects that they will be useful to people in South Carolina mainly for travel to places like New York, but also for[p] keep up with the times ”.

In Utah, Reid noticed high levels of demand when Singapore and Egypt switched to digital credentials.

“We got a lot of calls,” Reed said. “Funny: while people don’t like it need it. And when they need it, they suddenly get angry that they don’t have it. “

The pandemic and vaccination requirements have aroused more interest among residents who want to access their medical records. The number of people trying to get records – perhaps to confirm vaccination status – has risen 600 percent since the pandemic compared to the pre-pandemic level, said Christina Crane, chief strategy officer at STChealth, which offers a web portal to record vaccinations. and SMART Health Card digital credentials for a number of states.

The increase in interest in records is also due to the fact that in April 2021 came into force new federal regulations that make digital medical records more accessible – requiring providers to take notes for patients.

Digital vaccine records were long before Covid-19. But officials working with states said the QR codes on many of Covid-19’s digital credentials represent a political point.

“It simply came to our notice then [electronic health records system] can’t give out QR code. But we say that the state … cannot issue a QR code. But they could both publish a paper, printed record, ”Coyle said. “It’s the same thing, only in a different format, and one is perceived as political and the other is not.”

Last spring, the Biden administration said it would issue nationwide digital vaccine standards, but since then stayed away from the issue. As a result, the patchwork system often relied on paper CDC vaccine cards to check vaccination status – which is easy to fake – complicating immunization requirements for employers and businesses, especially in the absence of a national vaccination database.

In the absence of a federal standard, many states operate independently, making coordination difficult, said Anderson of MITR. But more than a dozen states have come together to work on common technologies and optimize how places like large venues can avoid congestion by checking vaccine documentation, among other things, he said.

“All states in the coalition, all pharmacies could have a much more unified voice and approach if we had the support and governance of the federal government,” Anderson said.

Amid the decline of the Omicron option, many Democratic governors are easing restrictions on Covid-19, including a mask policy, signaling that the virus will last a long time. Vaccination confirmation and digital credentials may be part of the “new normality” to help businesses stay open, especially when the Covid revival is happening.

“If the Covid waves continue to hit us … it will become a necessity,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. «[If] it’s the last breath of Covid-19, obviously it’s becoming much less important. “

Even outside of Covid-19 Coyle says technologies like SMART Health Cards can provide more seamless data sharing for things like immunization requirements at school and travel.

“Contilita is likely to be largely seen after the pandemic,” Coyle said. “We will continue to watch how this develops during the pandemic, but the future and long-term benefits are still there.”

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