The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced on Thursday the addition of QR codes — a type of barcode that can be scanned with smartphones — as a way to securely verify vaccination status for those who have been inoculated against COVID-19 in Virginia, according to a Sept. 16 release.
QR codes — short for “quick response” — are commonly used in retail, logistics, and other sectors. The technology allows anyone to show proof of vaccination with a digital or printed QR code instead of a paper card, and without the need for an app.
As more and more employers and businesses respond to calls by President Joe Biden (D) and Governor Ralph Northam (D) to require that employees and customers be vaccinated, QR codes, VDH said, will help improve the consistency and security of vaccination information while protecting individual privacy.
A person vaccinated in Virginia can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain their free vaccination record with QR code, which can then be saved to a phone’s image gallery, printed on paper, or stored in a compatible account, the release states.
QR codes contain the same information as paper records, but in a format that offers greater security and efficiency, they said. Because the QR code is digitally signed by the Virginia Department of Health, the release states the record cannot be altered or forged. Information from QR codes is only available if and when the individual chooses to share it. Businesses and employers that choose to verify an individual’s vaccination status can scan their QR codes with the free SMART Health Verifier App. Individuals do not need to download an app to use a QR code vaccination record.
Virginia is now the fifth U.S. state to adopt the SMART Health format for QR codes, empowering individuals with what VDH said is trustworthy and verifiable copies of their vaccination records in digital or paper form using open, interoperable standards. The framework and standards were developed by VCI, a coalition of more than 800 public and private organizations, including The Mayo Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, Microsoft, MITRE, and The Commons Project Foundation.
The QR codes are available to anyone whose vaccination record includes a working phone number and is in the Virginia Immunization Information System (VIIS), the release states.
Nearly all doses administered in Virginia are reported to VIIS, including those given by pharmacies, physician offices, health department clinics, federally qualified health centers, and community vaccination centers. Some doses administered outside Virginia to Virginia residents may be in VIIS. Doses administered directly by federal agencies such as the Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs are not reported to VIIS. A person whose record cannot be retrieved automatically may call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1) for assistance.
With more than 10.2 million doses of vaccine administered so far in Virginia, more than 58% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to VDH officials.
Everyone 12 or older is eligible to be vaccinated now. To find free vaccines nearby, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.