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SMART Health Card Let's You Digitally Store COVID Vaccine and Test Records

COVID-19 vaccine passports.

Nadya Ustyuzhantseva / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • The SMART Health Card, a technology that allows Americans to keep a copy of their COVID vaccine and testing information as a QR code, is now in use in more than 20 states.
  • The QR code technology of the SMART Health Cards makes health information easier to verify and harder to forge.
  • Digital proofs of vaccination may continue to gain traction over time.

Although the U.S. government has not issued a federal digital COVID-19 vaccine pass, a verifiable digital proof of vaccination has emerged anyway and slowly gained momentum over the past few months.

More than 20 states—including Connecticut, Nevada, Hawaii—are now using SMART Health Cards, a technology that allows individuals to store or print their health information as QR codes. 

The SMART Health Card was developed by the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), a global coalition of health and technology companies including Microsoft, Apple, and the Mayo Clinic. With this system, businesses and institutions can easily verify the authenticity of a health record, like an individual’s vaccination status. 

The convenience and authenticity of this technology are beneficial, experts said, and we might continue to use it in the future.

What Do SMART Health Cards Contain?

SMART Health Cards do not contain your address, contact number, government-issued identifier, or other health information. Only the following details are included:

  • Legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Clinical information
  • Date, manufacturer, and the result of test/s
  • Type, data, and location of vaccination/s

“A SMART Health Card can be used to share health information, such as vaccine status,” Matthew Farrelly, PhD, center director for RTI’s Center for Health Analytics, Media, and Policy, told Verywell. “Your information is communicated via a QR code that can be read by organizations that are participating in the SMART Health Card system.”

SMART Health Cards are recognized by various organizations, businesses, schools, and airlines in the U.S. and in several other countries as well. You can present it and have it scanned by a compatible verifier application at places that require proof of vaccination. You may also be asked to present other forms of identification, such as a driver’s license, to prove your identity.

What This Means For You

If you want to get your SMART Health Card, visit the U.S. SMART Health Card Issuers website to check if your state and/or the health institution that administered your vaccine are issuing it.

Why Opt for the SMART Health Card?

The SMART Health Card can be issued by healthcare providers, pharmacies like Walgreens or CVS, or state health authorities. They cannot be faked nearly as easily as paper vaccination cards, experts said. Afterward, you have the freedom to save it on your smartphone's photo album, view it with a PDF viewer application, or print it.

“The electronic version carries authenticity that is difficult to match with handwritten, paper cards,” Mark Loafman, MD, MPH, family physician at Cook County Health, told Verywell. “A verifiable digital proof of vaccination is more convenient, given how much we all carry and use our phones now.”

There have been instances of healthcare staff sharing blank vaccination cards for others to enter false data, but entering false information into the system is a much riskier and traceable step, he added.

“The SMART Health Card allows access to vaccine data that has been entered by a healthcare provider who administered the vaccine,” Loafman said. “To make a fake card, a healthcare professional with access would have to enter false data on the individual's behalf, and then that individual could download the false data."

Are SMART Health Cards Secure?

Vaccination records are uploaded to secure state-operated websites in accordance with HIPAA privacy and security regulations. The digital proof of vaccination, which provides patients access to their own vaccination data, is safe and no more vulnerable than any other password-protected information, Loafman said.

Sharing the QR code is similar to presenting your immunization record before enrolling in an educational institution or using your credit card in a store, which means that you should only share it with businesses and organizations that you trust.

“The SMART Health Card mobile app information is protected just as well as all other information on your cell phone based on the strength of your cell phone pass code,” Farrelly said. “The information stored on your cell phone may be more secure than a paper vaccine card that has no layer of projection if lost.” 

Unlike a physical vaccine card, the QR code masks your personal information in case it does get lost, he added.

Will These Be Useful in the Future?

Given that similar systems have been used for years—such as the CLEAR program in airports—the SMART Health Card may grow in popularity over time, Farrelly said. 

It also seems ideal to keep using digital proof of vaccination in the future, Loafman said. If vaccine data is routinely uploaded to secure state-operated websites, paper copies of vaccine administration data may eventually be impractical. Digital records have also been helpful when patients and families move between various health plans.

“We now have so much personal information online, and password protection, firewalls, etc. are all part of daily life,” Loafman added. “It is time for our critical health data to catch up. Security concerns with electronic health records are legitimate, just as these concerns are with other online shopping, banking, email info, and social media. We have learned to navigate these critical data areas very well, and we can do the same for health data.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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  1. State of Rhode Island Department of Health. SMART health cards frequently asked questions.