Better Business Bytes: New guidelines could make vaccine passports more common

Updated June 14, 2021.

Face masks reemerged as a national focal point after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine no longer need to wear face coverings indoors.

Verifying an individual’s vaccination status, though, is not an easy endeavor. Businesses may ask to see a patron’s vaccination card or a photo of it, but that act comes with complications. For one, vaccination cards are easy to forge, and some individuals are opting to fake it rather than get the shot. Plus, many aren’t comfortable carrying their cards in a pocket or a purse.

Those issues have significantly increased interest in vaccine passports — apps that can verify a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status. Some states, counties, and cities have already gone forward with the development of that technology, but other areas are reluctant to introduce it due to the types of medical information it shares.

Registering for a vaccine passport is already mandatory for some international travel and entering some entertainment venues. Similar requirements may become more common as pandemic-related mandates become more relaxed.

If you do end up registering for a vaccine passport, Better Business Bureau recommends these tips for protecting your privacy:

  • Be cautious of any unsolicited communications. Phishing texts or emails may urge you to download an app or fill out a form to register, in hopes of stealing your sensitive health information. Unless you’ve recently given a company a reason to contact you — for example, you’ve purchased a ticket — do not click or engage. Even so, cybercriminals may take the opportunity to impersonate a company or the state government claiming you need to register. Follow the Better Business Bureau’s tips on how to spot phishing.
  • Be skeptical of any app claiming to be from the U.S. government. Right now, the Biden administration is ruling out federal vaccine passports. Any texts, emails or calls that claim the government is requiring such a passport are false. Even if your state is considering vaccine passports or has already implemented them, it is unlikely they would contact you without an inquiry.
  • Check which app is compatible with the airline or venue directly. Since the development of these apps has been left to the private sector, it is only a matter of time before more passport options arise. Currently, since many companies are developing their own, there is no universal app that can apply across the board.
  • Look into how they pull your personal information. Each application has different methods for how they pull your information and the technologies implemented to protect it. Understanding this information will help you feel more secure in case you have the option to choose from multiple apps.