OC to Offer Optional Digital Vaccine Record, Not a Mandate

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

Orange County health officials still plan to provide digital proof people can use to show they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, but county leaders stress they will not mandate that anyone get a so-called “vaccine passport” and one won’t be required to get services from the county.

The OC Board of Supervisors on April 13, faced an angry crowd demanding the county abandon plans to require that people carry proof of vaccination to go about their daily lives – but no such plans exist.

Currently, when people get a vaccine shot, they’re given a white card issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It gets filled out by the vaccine provider with the name and birth date of the recipient, the date and location of the shot, and the maker and lot number of the vaccine.

The OC Health Care Agency said last week it will test a digital vaccination record, likely a QR code that could be scanned.

Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau said Tuesday the FBI and CDC have found the white cards are being forged and can be purchased online, so he wanted to offer a different form of proof through the county’s Othena app that people could use if they choose to – but they’d have to opt to get one.

The county absolutely will not require that people obtain a digital vaccine record or that businesses make people show them, nor would they be required to enter county facilities or get county services, Chau and several supervisors said.

The meeting came less than a week after parents flooded an Orange County Board of Education meeting decrying a non-existent plan to vaccinate children without parents’ consent. Some residents who spoke to supervisors on Tuesday lambasted Chau for alleged vaccine mandates, and others complained that by even offering a voluntary digital record, the county is enabling businesses to potentially discriminate against the unvaccinated.

The state has said it doesn’t plan to issue any sort of “vaccine passport,” although Chau noted that state guidance indicates venues for concerts, sports, and other gatherings may increase their capacity if they ask attendees for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Reached before the meeting, Third District Supervisor Don Wagner said the county already gives people a record that they’ve gotten their vaccine, and he’s fine with that; what he won’t support is requiring a government vaccination document for travel or access to public services.

Asked if he takes issue with private businesses asking customers to prove they’ve been vaccinated, Wagner said, “I have no more problem with that than I do with them requiring masks.”

Second District Supervisor Katrina Foley, who joined the board last month, said some of the public outcry seems to stem from misinformation.

“I am concerned that we are allowing a small minority of individuals who have been calling our offices all day yesterday,” she said, “to dictate how we serve the community’s health.”

She noted that for years, Americans have been traveling to countries that require visitors to show proof of certain vaccinations.

Chau said the Othena app had already begun providing QR codes to people who were vaccinated at a county-run site, but the codes weren’t active, and he’s been working with the Apple and Google Play stores to have them removed. Going forward, anyone who wants a digital vaccine record would need to click a box to opt in; they’ll also be able to get a digital record of a negative COVID-19 test.

Regarding medical privacy concerns some have raised, Chau said the vaccine record would only indicate the subject’s name and birth date and that they had received a vaccine.

The board didn’t vote on anything related to digital vaccine records Tuesday, but the agenda did include information about a $3.8 million amendment to an existing contract with Composite Apps, which developed Othena for the county.

The additional money covers building an interface with the state’s My Turn vaccine site; tech support, including at county vaccine sites; support for notifying people when vaccine appointments are canceled and helping reschedule them; and incorporating COVID-19 test results into Othena, Chau said after the meeting.

Category: COVID-19, orange county