The Pros and Cons of California's Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record

June 6, 2021


This weekend, California just announced a new initiative to allow residents to digitize their COVID-19 vaccine records. This article reviews this initiative, the underlying technology and how it affects you.

California digital covid19 vaccine record

What exactly is the record?

The record is a web page that you access from the California Department of Public Health. You are encouraged to screenshot the page and it looks something like this:

The QR includes binary data based on the SMART Health Cards project. This example holds the following example data, which is the same amount of data as a real card:


That's a lot of data. The California press release above claims this only includes your "name, date of birth, date of vaccinations, and vaccine manufacturer" but for it appears other information may be included as well, see how large that string of digits is.

Does it scan?

Currently there are no available apps or tools on the market to scan or validate this QR code. Effectively, it is an opaque format and the example code published by Microsoft does not compile for macOS/iOS.

Gov access

Although California claims "The State will not be implementing a mandatory passport system in California", this digital passport does provide all the information necessary for the State to do so.

In fact, you only need to provide your name and date of birth and email address to retrieve the information. This indicates that California already has your vaccine information compiled in a database. If current trends are indication, you can expect your California vaccination record will be hacked and published on the internet in the next 3–6 months.

Of course, the State is not able to make promises about what a future administration will do.

Comparison to Certificates

A related technology is Lab Result Certification. The solution offers more privacy and does not require storing records in a centralized, hackable databasee.

Here is a brief comparison.

Feature CA Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record Lab Result Certification
Privacy California keeps a copy of all information in a central database never sees (and thus can't keep) patient data
Format Proprietary QR format The QR code is a URL
Usage No software exists to scan the certificates ~6 billion devices can scan and use the QR code today
Acceptance Only usable in California, not for travel Accepted by the US Dept of Homeland Security and border agents across the globe

Upgrade your CA certificate is demoing a product which allows California residents to validate and upgrade their CA Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record into Lab Result Certifications.

Scan here to have a DEMO

If interest to see the demo, please contact Daniel Uribe at [email protected] for access.

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