Massachusetts’ digital vaccine passport leaves some residents frustrated: ‘I didn’t find anything for me’
Massachusetts this week unveiled a new digital COVID vaccine passport intended to make it easier for residents to prove immunization status — particularly as internal vaccine mandates take hold across the Commonwealth, including Boston and Brooklyn this weekend.
But dozens of Massachusetts residents hoping for an easy process of obtaining their electronic vaccine records ran into some loopholes when they entered their information on a state government website. The most common version appears to be the loss of the COVID booster snapshot information.
The department warned of another problem people could expect: Individuals vaccinated outside Massachusetts cannot immediately rely on the passport, which pulls health data from the Massachusetts Immunization Information System. To fix the problem, residents should ask their health care provider to update their vaccination records.
My Vax Records comes with a QR code from the SMART Health Card platform, which is used in nearly a dozen other states. MassLive previously reported that developing and testing the tool cost Massachusetts about $400,000.
About 370,000 vaccine cards had been downloaded as of Wednesday afternoon, a Baker administration official told MassLive.
Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday urged people to be precise on the state’s website when entering their name, cell phone number and other basic contact information — and align them with the details individuals shared when receiving their vaccine doses. Any inconsistencies can cause hiccups at My Vax Records, Baker said.
For some residents, the vaccine passport seemed easy to download to their smartphone or other device.
“Worked great!” Karen Hayes told MassLive on Facebook.
“I had absolutely no problem,” Debbie Bean said. “It was easy and all the information was accurate. I’m ready!!”
“All three turned out right,” said Mary Dunn.
“No problem,” Kim Element said, adding a smiley face emoji.
However, frustrated Massachusetts residents have identified a host of other issues for MassLive as they try to take advantage of the digital passport option.
Webster’s Phil Routledge told MassLive he received his first two shots of the vaccine at Harrington Hospital last April, followed by a booster dose in December at his local Walgreens hospital. But when I entered his cell phone number and tried two email addresses in his state system Tuesday morning, he received an error message: “Does not match our records.”
By Wednesday afternoon, Routledge told MassLive he had made some progress updating his vaccine record. On a separate webpage, Routledge provided a photo of his driver’s license and also entered the date and location of the COVID booster shot.
“Admitted by automatic email,” Routledge told MassLive, he shared his order confirmation from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Immunization Department. “We will see what happens.”
She told MassLive on Tuesday afternoon that Jenna Fields was unable to access her digital passport.
“I hope everything will be resolved by Monday, but I’m sure it won’t,” Fields said in an email.
Scott Fitzgerald has had partial success getting his digital passport. His electronic record, for now, only reflects the first two shots of the vaccine, not his booster. However, Fitzgerald received all doses of the vaccine at the same pharmacy chain, he told MassLive on Facebook.
Laurie Goldman reports Lewis about her out-of-the-country system.
“She said she couldn’t find anything for me,” Lewis told MassLive on Facebook. “I’m totally full and boosted. All shots are in MA.”
Jessica Kish Kennedy, who was vaccinated at Gillette Stadium, decried the use of the state site as well.
“I filled everything in exactly as I originally presented it,” Kennedy said. I tried it using both my email and my cell, and it just said ‘no info’.
However, the new Massachusetts Digital Vaccine Passport is only one option for individuals to prove they are fully vaccinated. For simplicity, people can choose to carry their CDC card with them – or rely on a picture of it saved on their phone.
People can also use other vaccine certification platforms, such as the Excelsior Pass in New York. That’s what Michelle Margulies intends to download, because the state’s website doesn’t find its records.
“I think I’ll stick with using the New York app where you can upload a picture of your card,” Margulies told MassLive on Facebook.
To store the state’s vaccine passport, residents are encouraged to add the digital card to the Apple Health Wallet or take a screenshot. Betsy Robinson Bertuzzi struggled with the move, even as Facebook users were quick to offer her advice.
“It’s easy to access, but impossible to download or transfer to my wallet and/or health app,” Bertozzi told MassLive on Facebook. “I have an iPhone 10. But there is no place in the instructions that says it is only for certain phone models. I followed the instructions to “keep pressing until the health app button appears”, but it never happens.”
Susan Hugos lamented that the digital tool could have worked better for Android users.
“I’d like to have a separate Google pay or app instead of putting it in Google Images,” MassLive said on Facebook.
If you can’t download the app, try updating your vaccine history information here.
Still having issues with your new state vaccination passport? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.