Barcoding Americans: Is White House planning to use QR codes to verify vaccination status?

By Jenny Goldsberry

A CBS reporter grilled White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients on vaccine QR codes during a press conference Thursday. This comes as more businesses across the nation began requiring proof of vaccination.

“Now that more entities are requiring more vaccines, is the administration reconsidering something like a QR code or a passport to help verify people’s vaccination status?” the reporter asked. “And if not, what are you doing to stop the proliferation of fake vaccine cards?”

“There are a number of ways people can demonstrate their vaccination status,” Zients replied. “Companies and organizations and the government are taking different approaches. We applaud this innovation.”

However, he was clear that the White House will not get involved in creating vaccination QR codes. “There will be no federal vaccination database,” Zients said. “As with all other vaccines the data gets held at the state and local level.”

Yet he didn’t dismiss the idea entirely, suggesting that local entities could test it out. Zients himself said he would support it as long as it met “key standards, including affordability, being available both digitally and on paper and importantly protecting people’s privacy and security.”

On the other hand, when it comes to fraudulent vaccination cards, he had much stronger words. “We are aware of some causes of fraud. Counterfeit COVID-19 cards being advertised on social media sites and e-commerce platforms,” Zients said. “While the practice is not widespread I will remind everyone that it’s a crime. The office of the Inspector General the Department of Health and Human Services is investigating these schemes.”

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Meanwhile, San Fransisco’s Mayor London Breed announced that customers at high-contact indoor businesses will be required to share their vaccination status.

You can follow Jenny Goldsberry on Twitter @jennyjournalism.

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