January 17, 2022

Massachusetts’ digital vaccine passport leaves some residents frustrated: ‘Couldn’t find anything for me’ – MassLive.com

Massachusetts this week unveiled a new digital COVID vaccine passport intended to make it easier for residents to prove their immunization status — particularly as indoor vaccine mandates take hold across the commonwealth, including in Boston and Brookline this weekend.

But scores of Massachusetts residents hoping for an easy process to obtain their electronic vaccine records encountered glitches as they entered their information on a state government website. The most common issued seemed to be missing COVID booster shot information.

The administration had warned of another problem that people could expect: Individuals vaccinated outside of Massachusetts could not 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.

The “My Vax Records” tool comes with a QR code from the SMART Health Card platform, which is being used in roughly a dozen other states. It cost Massachusetts about $400,000 to develop and test the tool, MassLive previously reported.

About 370,000 vaccine cards have been downloaded as of Wednesday afternoon, a Baker administration official told MassLive.

Gov. 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 — aligning it with the details individuals shared when receiving their vaccine doses. Any discrepancies, Baker said, could cause a hiccup in the “My Vax Records” tool.

For some residents, the vaccine passport seemed to be an easy download on their smartphones or other devices.

“Worked great!” Karen A. Hayes told MassLive on Facebook.

“I had no problem at all,” Debbie Beane said. “It was easy and all the information was accurate. I’m all set!!”

“All three showed up correctly,” Mary Dunn said.

“No problem,” Kim Element said, adding a smiley face emoji.

Still, frustrated Massachusetts residents outlined a litany of other issues to MassLive as they tried to take advantage of the digital passport option.

Phil Rutledge, of Webster, told MassLive he received his first two vaccine shots at Harrington Hospital last April, followed by a booster in December at a local Walgreens. But when he entered his cell phone number and tried both of his email addresses in the state system on Tuesday morning, he received an error message: “does not match our records.”

By Wednesday afternoon, Rutledge told MassLive he had made some headway updating his vaccine record. On a separate webpage, Rutledge submitted a picture of his driver’s license and also entered the date and location of his COVID booster shot.

“It was acknowledged by auto email,” Rutledge told MassLive, sharing the confirmation of his request from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Immunization Division. “We’ll see what happens.”

Gina Fields couldn’t access her digital passport either, she told MassLive on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m hoping all is resolved by Monday, but I’m sure it won’t be,” Fields said in an email.

Scott Fitzgerald had partial success obtaining his digital passport. His electronic record, for now, only reflects his first two vaccine shots, not his booster. Still, Fitzgerald received all of his vaccine doses at the same pharmacy chain, he told MassLive on Facebook.

Laurie Goldman Lewis reported no luck with the state’s system.

“Said it couldn’t find anything for me,” Lewis told MassLive on Facebook. “I’m fully vaxxed and boosted. All shots in MA.”

Jessica Kish Kennedy, who got vaccinated at Gillette Stadium, struck out using the state’s website, too.

“I filled in everything exactly as I submitted it originally,” Kennedy said. “I tried it using both my email and my cell, and it just said ‘no information.’”

Massachusetts’ new digital vaccine passport is only one option for individuals to prove they are fully inoculated, however. For simplicity’s sake, people can opt to carry around their CDC card with them — or rely on a picture of it saved to their phones.

People can also use other vaccine credential platforms, such as New York’s Excelsior Pass. That’s what Michelle Margulies intends to download, since the state website isn’t finding her records.

“Guess I’ll stick to using the NY 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 their Apple Health Wallet or take a screenshot. Betsy Robinson Bertuzzi struggled with that step, even as Facebook users rushed to offer her advice.

“Easy to access, but impossible to download or move to my wallet and/or health app,” Bertuzzi told MassLive on Facebook. “I have an iPhone 10. But nowhere in the instructions does it say that it’s only for certain models of phones. I followed the instructions to ‘hold down until the health app button pops up,’ but it never does.”

Susan Hugus lamented the digital tool could have worked better for Android users.

“Would like to have in Google pay or a separate app instead of putting it in the Google photos,” told MassLive on Facebook.

If you’re unable to download the app, try updating your vaccine record information here.

Still having issues with the state’s new vaccine passport? Email akuznitz@masslive.com.

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