US vaccine recipients can put the proof in Apple Wallet

  • eWallet
  • Tuesday, 29 Dec 2020

A healthcare worker holds a coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine vial at a hospital in Glendale, California, US. Tracking Covid-19 vaccine recipients and authenticating immunisation status are poised to become increasingly important in the US and globally as vaccines are rolled out. — Reuters

Covid-19 vaccine recipients in Los Angeles County, a major virus hot spot, will be offered a digital record that will help ensure they get a second shot and could, eventually, be used to gain access to concert venues or airline flights.

The offering is being provided starting this week through a partnership with the startup Healthvana. It’s initially geared toward ensuring people receive both doses of the two-shot regimens that have been authorised in the US, including through follow-up notifications before a second appointment.

It will also give recipients a way to verify they have been vaccinated, which they can put into an Apple Wallet or competing Google platform “to prove to airlines, to prove to schools, to prove to whoever needs it”, said Healthvana chief executive officer Ramin Bastani.

Los Angeles-based Healthvana, founded in late 2014, runs a software platform that delivers test results to patients for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. It began working with the county earlier this year to provide Covid-19 test results to patients.

Those prior relationships with area residents made the startup a good fit for the digital vaccine record, said Claire Jarashow, director of vaccine preventable disease control at the county’s Department of Public Health.

Los Angeles County last week broke its record of new Covid-19 deaths and hospitalisations. It has been racing to distribute vaccines “as quickly as humanly possible”, Jarashow said.

While the immunisations are being tracked in registries, public health officials there also saw a need to give patients ownership of their own records, Jarashow said. They will receive a paper card tracking which vaccine they received and when, but that could be easily lost.

“We’re really concerned. We really want people to come back for that second dose,” Jarashow said. And “we just don’t have the capacity to be doing hundreds of medical record requests to find people’s first doses and when they need to get their second”.

Tracking Covid-19 vaccine recipients and authenticating immunisation status are poised to become increasingly important in the US and globally as vaccines are rolled out.

That’s sparked a race among players like International Business Machines Corp to provide technological solutions, envisioning a world in which vaccination records can be used to grant access to places where people may gather, or be in close proximity. With private health records involved, these efforts have also raised questions about ethical and privacy concerns.

Software platform

Healthvana also offered more capabilities than a platform being used to run Covid-19 vaccination clinics called PrepMod. Still, at least initially, the county will be integrating, cleaning and processing data from PrepMod and other registries each night to Healthvana.

Jarashow acknowledged issues around granting a company access to residents’ protected health information, but said that they had worked through them. Healthvana stores the data on Amazon Web Services’ HIPAA-compliant servers, according to Bastani.

“It’s as safe as we can make it,” Jarashow said. “Personally I would feel comfortable using it, so I hope that’s reassuring.”

General population

The county had administered at least 38,850 doses of the Pfizer Inc vaccine, just under half of its allotment, to health-care providers, residents of long-term care facilities and paramedics as of Dec 22. The digital vaccine record will grow increasingly important as the immunisation push broadens to a more general population, Jarashow said.

With about 10 million residents, Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the US.

Healthvana is also in discussions with concert venues, employers, universities and schools about applying this technology, “anyone who has a large number of people interacting with them,” Bastani said. But he believes it’s unlikely any one such service will become the standard.

“It’s not going to be like one credit card you can use across the US. Sometimes you can pay cash, sometimes you can use your Apple Wallet,” he said. – Bloomberg

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