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Companies are racing to build digital passports for people to prove they’ve had the Covid vaccine

People who get vaccinated against Covid-19 at Dodger Stadium leave with inoculation against the virus, a band-aid on their arm, and a CDC card with handwritten details such as when it was provided and which type of vaccine it was.

The CDC card is a tradition that goes back to the 1880s, when paper cards were first used to let students return to schools amid a smallpox outbreak.

Now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, those cards are going digital. Patients from L.A. County can sign up to get a text message with a link to the same information as the paper card. The message also offers to send a follow-up text to remind the patient to come back to get their second dose.

It also includes a link to add all that data to Apple Wallet, a built-in iPhone app that’s normally used to store things like tickets to events and airplane boarding passes. It can be added to Google Wallet too, as well as downloaded as a PDF file.

“You’ve given those CDC paper cards that document you’ve received it, but early on, we were concerned about it, because in this day and age, people just carry their phones around,” Claire Jarashow, director of vaccine preventable disease control at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said.

The Los Angeles Wallet pass is one of the first examples in the United States of a digital Covid-19 vaccine proof, where patients can store information related to their vaccination status on their phones and quickly produce it for anyone who might need to know — like an airline, or a school, or a stadium holding a concert once it’s safe again.

Whether they’ll accept it is another question.

There’s currently no international or national coordination on the best practices for implementing vaccine passes, so companies that run large events don’t have a authority to refer to about what’s legal and what’s ethical when choosing their policies and technology.

The FDA hasn’t approved any third-party companies to deliver real-time vaccination results. A World Health Organization committee addressing the topic met this week, but has not published its results.

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