Dear Ms. Smartphone: I am hoping to get the Covid vaccine soon along with other members of my family. I heard that when we get it we will need to keep a receipt for it on our phones. I have not done this before and am wondering if this is so necessary. Janine, TIburon
Dear Janine: The Covid virus has been a real shot in the arm (pun intended) for smartphones. Initially, contact tracing apps were rolled out for phones with a mix of opt-in, opt-out functionality. Next, smartphones became a vital part of getting tested. Most of us have to sign up for a Covid test, reserve a spot, and learn the results through a combination of text, email, and web site. So, it’s not a surprise that the most important and anticipated element, the vaccine, is also intertwined with our phones.
Phones Have Background!
Some background: Putting health records on phones is not entirely new but since the beginning of Covid, many firms have vied to be first to issue or manage digital health credentials. Among the firms are IBM, a Swiss non-profit called the Commons Project Foundation, and Healthvana. The latter company teamed up with Los Angeles County. A county health official said they wanted to “give patients ownership of their records.” Phones were deemed to be particularly useful, since the calendar function and text can remind the public when it’s time to get the second dose of the two-shot regime. Still, those getting the vaccine in LA County are also said to receive a paper card.
Paper has turned out to be a problem. During Covid there has been a booming market in creating fake test results. Back in November, a publication reported that international travelers (largely outside the U.S.) forged, and sold, negative test results. So, the idea has been to create a “digital health credential” on smartphones that is more secure and less susceptible to fraud.
Of course, this could raise issues, and this might be at the heart of your question. Should we be worried about privacy and surveillance? The software developer, like Healthvana, claim that the health pass does not share specific details-like where and when a user was tested. In due time, we can hope that members of the public will no longer need to show that they have been vaccinated in order to do everyday things. If they remember to do so, they can then delete the record from their phones.
VERILY & Apple FOR YOURS:
In the interim, airlines, schools, and employers may need to verify that people actually got the vaccine. And, it could be useful if you want to dine indoors at a favorite restaurant or get admission to say movie theaters and sports events.
If you have children, you will recall that you need to bring a paper certificate with a history of vaccination records, before they enroll in day-care or school. Today, some doctor’s offices submit those forms digitally. Now it’s looking like you will be bringing the results from the Covid vaccine and other health information on your digital wallet. It should not be a surprise then that latest Apple operating system (i0S), is literally programmed with a health app you cannot delete!