“I think the wind seems to be blowing here,” said Dr. George Rutherford, epidemiologist at UCSF. “I don’t see the state or federal government stepping in. It will be largely a private sector solution that is government sponsored but not mandated. It will be like ‘no shoes, no shirt, no service’.”
Even if the state does not require companies to ask customers to present digital vaccination cards, the simple provision of the digital infrastructure and the gentle management of companies in this direction – which already happens when employees are vaccinated – could create a de facto system of vaccination cards create. The state’s digital IDs aren’t as easy to forge as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s physical vaccination cards and could become the preferred method for verifying vaccine status in the state.
Vaccination records are controversial. Some Republican-led states have banned communities from introducing a vaccination record, and even in heavily Democratic California, where 61% of the population is fully vaccinated, Newsom avoids using the phrase.
The only state where a version of “vaccine passports” has been introduced on a relatively large scale is Hawaii, a major tourist center with millions of visitors Annual visitors from the mainland. It didn’t go well.
In early July, Hawaii launched its Safe Travels Program, which allows travelers to skip a quarantine period or receive a negative test in order to provide proof of vaccination. According to local TV reports, the first day of the broadcast at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport was a mess.
As part of the program, travelers were required to post pictures of their vaccination cards to the Safe Travels website in advance. As soon as travelers arrived at the airport, the waiting time for the control lines was more than an hour and there were finger pointing.
“They said about 90% of the cards submitted through Safe Travels have not yet been verified by Hawaii,” one traveler told KHON2.
Meanwhile, the state said that 70% of travelers didn’t properly follow the instructions when uploading their cards. Originally, Hawaii only allowed uploading images from official CDC cards, but later allowed vaccination cards from health care providers or hospitals to be uploaded.
“Uploading the vaccination card is not easy. Unless you are tech-savvy, regardless of whether seniors are having difficulty uploading the carry card, or the phone functions do not have this ability to upload the card or vaccination card,” Bob Burr, the Operations manager of the agency behind Safe Travels, told KITV4.
California has no immediate plans to introduce vaccination records for travel, but Hawaii’s challenges with the Safe Travels system raise some questions about the California digital system. As soon as Californians submit information about their vaccination card (name, date of birth, cell phone number, email), they should receive their digital card with a QR code.
The operative phrase there is “should”.
Tens of thousands of Californians report delays in getting their QR codes, and a recent report from the San Francisco Chronicle describes some of the problems behind the scenes with the system (SFGATE and San Francisco Chronicle are both owned and operated by Hearst) independently ).
According to the Chronicle, many of vaccine site records are incomplete, with typos, or otherwise inaccurate, and the state has a team of 80 people working on troubleshooting and correcting records. There is no timetable for when there will be minimal delays.
Only 1.4 million people have successfully received their digital records, which is about 3.5% of the California population. If restaurants, bars, sports venues, and other businesses considering vaccine passports choose to use the state’s digital system, it is highly unlikely that the state will be able to cope with the influx of vaccinees using their digital Find maps, process them quickly and efficiently, and thus create another Hawaiian airport location.
The other important lesson for California is how unvaccinated individuals respond to companies requiring proof of vaccination to enter.
Bars and restaurants on Oahu that were operating at full capacity were instructed to require customers to provide evidence of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result within the past 48 hours to enter, and Hawaii News Now reported that the facilities subsequently “Eaten alive” by unhappy customers have been using the policy.
“That would be difficult to handle and I didn’t want to get my employees into a situation,” said one restaurant owner who does not follow the order.
Reports of unruly restaurant goers are piling up in California, and the Hawaii Restaurant Association said it couldn’t name a single restaurant that still adheres to the order after widespread backlash.
From a practical standpoint, it seems unlikely that companies can rely on the state’s slow digital system as the primary method of checking vaccinations. Instead, companies must use physical vaccination cards that are easily forged or lost. However, physical cards still have regulatory compliance issues and the ability of employees to be exposed and harassed by customers.
The only development that could potentially differentiate the California vaccination record from the Hawaiian one is the full FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccines, which in theory would remove the remaining excuses for not vaccinating. Rutherford expects full approval sometime in the fall.
“Once it is not just an emergency approval, certain people who have hesitated can move on and the vaccine can be more easily prescribed,” Rutherford said. “The reason places like the US military haven’t mandated the vaccine is because it’s not fully approved. Once that is the case, people can start pushing buttons and implement it. “