State Digital Vaccine Records Unreliable

Vehicles wait in line on Fong Ranch Road for drive-thru vaccination clinic at Natomas High School. / Photo

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Those hoping to use the state’s digital vaccine record as proof of their COVID-19 vaccination status may be surprised to find it’s incomplete or missing altogether from the system and could take weeks to fix.

The state of California last week announced it is requiring employees to either demonstrate they have been vaccinated or be subject to regular testing. Some employers and businesses in the Sacramento area have indicated they are checking vaccination status before allowing individuals inside.

Senior receives COVID-19 vaccination at Natomas High drive-thru clinic. / Photo

The Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record portal launched online in June is meant to help Californians access and download their COVID-19 vaccination record. Users input an email address or cell phone number linked to their vaccination record and receive a QR code which they can save to their phones.

But in an informal survey of 75 people conducted by The Natomas Buzz, 33% said they were not in the system despite being fully vaccinated. About 3% said their information showed as “incomplete” in the system.

According to California Department of Public Health spokesperson Sami Gallegos, information in the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record is pulled from the California Immunization Registry.

The registry is a secure, confidential, web-based database which stores immunization records of children and adults into one place. This creates a immunization history that is available even when someone moves or switches health care.

Those administering COVID-19 vaccines are charged with updating information in the registry as shots are administered.

According to those surveyed, however, whether or not an individual’s information can be found via the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record portal varied widely — suggesting it may not be pulling data from California Immunization Registry consistently.

Gallegos couldn’t say how many Californians’ digital records are inaccurate or missing altogether.

“We can confirm that a majority of individuals using the system have had no issue with attaining their digital record,” Gallegos added.

Those surveyed by The Natomas Buzz received their vaccinations at popup vaccination events, pharmacies, clinics and their primary healthcare providers. The respondents who said they could not retrieve their digital records were vaccinated at urgent care clinics and locations hosted by UC Davis as well as the Twin Rivers Unified and Natomas Unified school districts.

A handful of those surveyed who were vaccinated at a popup or clinic said they had reported this information to their primary healthcare provider, but said the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record still did not have their information.

More than 45% of those surveyed were vaccinated during clinics held by the Natomas Unified School District. Of those, nearly 56% said they could find their record in the state online portal, but 44% could not.

While Gallegos suggested those who cannot find their record in the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record portal first contact the vaccination provider, temporary clinic hosts such as the Natomas Unified School District, do not have a way to submit corrections to the state’s immunization registry. The best way to get information added to the online portal is to request a review and record update through the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Support “virtual assistant.”

Individuals will need a valid ID and vaccination card or information when requesting a record review and fill out an online questionnaire which takes about 10 minutes to complete. Processing the record review and update could take weeks to resolve, according to the California Department of Public Health website.

Gallegos noted that those who received vaccinations from a federal agency such as the Department of Defense, Indian Health Services or Veterans Affairs, need to contact those agencies for assistance if their Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record is missing or incomplete.

In the past year, both the state’s CA Notify app meant to inform individuals if they were exposed to COVID-19, and MyTurn vaccination registration website have met with criticism for not working as intended.

COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Natomas High School. / Photo

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