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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Massachusetts residents struggle to access new digital vaccine passports

Massachusetts this week unveiled a new digital COVID vaccine passport that aims to make it easier for residents to prove their vaccination status – especially as indoor vaccine mandates take hold in the Commonwealth, including Boston and Brookline, this weekend .

But many residents of Massachusetts faced glitches hoping for an easier process to obtain their electronic vaccine records as they entered their information on the state government website. The most common issue seems to be missing information on the COVID booster shot.

The administration warned of another problem people might expect: Individuals vaccinated outside of Massachusetts may not immediately rely on 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 Wax Records” tool comes with a QR code from the smart health card platform, which is being used in about a dozen other states. MassLive previously reported that it cost Massachusetts about $400,000 to develop and test the tool.

A Baker administration official told MassLive that as of Wednesday afternoon, about 370,000 vaccine cards have been downloaded.

Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday urged people on the state’s website to be accurate when entering their names, cell phone numbers and other basic contact information – aligning it with the details people share when they receive their vaccine doses. Huh. Any discrepancy, Baker said, could cause hiccups in the “My Wax Records” tool.

For some residents, Vaccine Passport appears to be an easy download on their smartphones or other devices.

“Very well done!” Karen A. Hayes told MassLive on Facebook.

“I didn’t have a problem,” Debbie Bean said. “It was easy and all the information was accurate. I’m ready!!”

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

“Never mind,” said Kim Element, adding a smiley face emoji.

Still, frustrated Massachusetts residents trying to take advantage of the digital passport option gave MassLive a list of other issues.

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

As of Wednesday afternoon, Routledge told MassLive that he had made some progress updating his vaccine record. On a separate webpage, Routledge submitted a photo of his driver’s license and also recorded the date and location of his COVID booster shot.

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

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Gina Fields could not access her digital passport, she told MassLive on Tuesday afternoon.

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

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

Laurie Goldman Lewis reported having no luck with the system of state.

“Say it couldn’t find anything for me,” Lewis told MassLive on Facebook. “I’m totally waxed and boosted. All the shots in MA.”

Jessica Kish Kennedy, who was vaccinated at Gillette Stadium, also kicked out using the state’s website.

“I filled everything out exactly as I originally presented it,” Kennedy said. “I tried it using both my email and my cell, and it said ‘No information.'”

However, Massachusetts’ new digital vaccine passport is the only option for individuals to prove they have been fully vaccinated. For the sake of simplicity, people can choose to carry their CDC card with them — or rely on a photo saved to their phone.

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

“Guess I’ll continue to use 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 a digital card to their Apple Health Wallet or take a screenshot. Betsy Robinson Bertuzzi struggled with that move, even as Facebook users rushed to offer her advice.

“Easy to access, but impossible to download or transfer 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 this is only for certain models of phones. I followed the instructions to hold down ’till the health app button pops up’, but it never Does not happen.”

Susan Hughes expressed regret that the digital tool could have worked better for Android users.

“I’d rather put it in Google Pay or a separate app than put it in Google Photos,” MassLive said on Facebook.

If you can’t download the app, try updating your vaccine record information here.

Still having issues with the state’s new vaccine passport? Email [email protected]

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