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How Do California Digital Vaccine Record QR Codes Work?

Officials recommended keeping a screenshot of that code in your phone — which may be increasingly handy as a growing number of restaurants and bars require proof of COVID-19 vaccination as the delta variant surges.

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(TNS) — While many Californians still may be having trouble getting their digital vaccine record, those who do have theirs received a QR code.

Officials recommended keeping a screenshot of that code in your phone — which may be increasingly handy in the Bay Area as a growing number of restaurants and bars require proof of COVID-19 vaccination as the delta variant drives a new coronavirus surge.

But if you try to scan the card through a regular QR code scanner app, you get an unintelligible string of letters and symbols or a "no usable data found" message.

That's on purpose, officials said.

The digital vaccine record and its QR code are "SMART Health Cards," a kind of digital record that's meant to protect users' privacy, state officials said. Because of this, you need a special app — the SMART Health Card Verifier app — to read the codes.

"This isn't a bug — we did this to protect your information and privacy," Rick Klau, California's chief technology innovation officer, wrote in a blog post. The app was launched in early July, a couple of weeks after California rolled out its digital vaccine record system, by The Commons Project, a nonprofit that builds digital services.

Anyone can download and use the verifier app — just search for "SMART Health Verifier" in your phone's app store. Once you have it, you can simply scan a vaccine QR code through your phone's camera.

If the record is valid, a green box saying "verified" will come up, as well as the name of the person who was vaccinated, their date of birth — which you have to click on to see — and where, when and which vaccine they got. It's all the same information on your paper vaccination card.

What the SMART Health cards should not reveal is your phone number, address, any government-issued identification numbers or any other health information, according to the SMART Health website.

Any businesses or employers that want to check your vaccination status can use this app to do so, officials said — it's the same as presenting your physical card.

Smart health cards aren't unique to California or to the COVID-19 vaccine — they can be used to keep record of all kinds of vaccinations or health information and are used by states and businesses all over the world. Louisiana and Hawaii, for example, also encourage the use of the digital cards, and state officials predict even more states will join.

Officials added that whether you want a digital vaccine record to share it with others is up to you — the digital records and the QR code scanner are intended to make things easier, but are not required.

© 2021 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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