LA Plans to Issue Digital “Passports” With Coronavirus Vaccines

In order to track who’s gotten one or both shots of a coronavirus vaccination, Los Angeles County plans to offer a digital proof of inoculation.

The digital system, which would be accessible by smartphone, is first and foremost an organizational tool to remind patients to get their second dose and help healthcare workers stay on top of the mountains of medical records and paperwork, Bloomberg reports. The idea resuscitates the notion of immunity passports, the controversial suggestion that those who are no longer susceptible to COVID-19 should be given documentation to prove it.

Experts first floated immunity passports as something to give people who had recovered from COVID-19, but the idea was laden with ethical and logistical concerns — especially since scientists weren’t sure how long coronavirus antibodies lasted after a patient recovered.

But instead of the immune system’s response to COVID-19, this new system built by the medical testing platform startup Healthvana would show whether someone had been vaccinated, likely a more robust indicator that they’re no longer infectious.

After vaccination, you’d be able to take out your smartphone and show you’d been inoculated “to prove to airlines, to prove to schools, to prove to whoever needs it,” Healthvana CEO Ramin Bastani told Bloomberg.

Still, the plan leaves many questions, like how to accommodate and support those who don’t use smartphones when society starts to creak back to life. But even aside from those issues, the platform could provide a much-needed tool to help officials keep the vaccination process itself organized.

“We’re really concerned. We really want people to come back for that second dose,” Claire Jarashow, director of vaccine-preventable disease control at LA county’s Department of Public Health, told Bloomberg. “We just don’t have the capacity to be doing hundreds of medical record requests to find people’s first doses and when they need to get their second.”

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