How to store your Covid vaccine card or test results on your phone
The state of the Covid digital vaccine card – the barcode we store on our phones and present to businesses and places as proof of vaccination – is chaotic.
While some states, like California and New York, accept digital records as proof of vaccination to allow entry into restaurants and other businesses, states like Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida have banned their use. This means that anyone who plans to travel to the United States this holiday season should research the policies of the destination.
Yet there is no question that a digital card is much more practical than a physical recording. For many, the thought of misplacing a paper file can cause great anxiety, so it’s nice to have our inoculation data on devices we carry everywhere. And companies like Apple and Google have developed convenient ways to store and retrieve our vaccine credentials.
Much remains unclear for travelers with the emergence of the Omicron variant. So, to help you plan safe getaways this holiday season, I’m going to go over some of the easiest ways to transport your Covid-related health data, including vaccine passports and test results.
Here is what you need to know.
The best method: Apple and Google wallet apps
First of all. To find your state’s policies on digital vaccine credentials, see its department of health website.
Some states, including California, Utah, Washington, and New York, offer SMART health cards. This is digital identifying information linked to an official database containing your vaccination records or test results. They come in the form of QR codes, which are basically bar codes that look like a bunch of black and white squares and contain information about your inoculations or the results of your tests.
States that work with SMART Health Cards (a full list can be found online) allow you to visit a web portal to add your credentials directly to official wallet apps on iPhones and Android phones. These wallet apps are a default location for storing data and can be immediately opened by pressing the power button on the phone for quick access to your health document.
Here is an example of how to do this on an iPhone in California:
Make sure you have installed the latest software update for iOS (version 15.1.1). To do this, open the Settings app, tap General, and then tap Software Update.
Once you have received the vaccination card, press the button labeled “Add to Apple Wallet & Health”. You now have access to your vaccination card by opening the Wallet app or by pressing the power button twice.
And here is an example of how to do this on an Android phone in New York:
Make sure you are using Android version 5 or later. To do this, open Settings, tap System, select Advanced, then System Update.
Once you have received the immunization card, press the button labeled “Save to Phone” and follow the instructions to save a shortcut to your home screen. You can now access your vaccination card by opening the shortcut. Or you can open the Google Pay app by holding down the power button and selecting your vaccine card there.
For Covid test results, you similarly add the document to your mobile wallet using a digital barcode from the state health department or your health care provider.
The most basic method: save a photo
Those who live in states that do not provide digital vaccine credentials can take a digital copy of their Covid vaccine or test record by taking a photo of it. The next step is to make the photo easy to find. I recommend saving the photo in a note-taking app, which allows you to tag the note so that it can be easily highlighted using a keyword search.
On an iPhone, here’s how to store the recording in the Notes app:
Open your photo. Tap the button in the lower left corner that looks like a square with an arrow pointing up. In the row of apps, swipe to the Notes app and select it. Here, save the image in a new note.
Now open the Notes app and select the note you just created. Rename the note “Vaccination Record” or “Covid Test Results”.
And here’s how to do the same on an Android phone in the Google Keep note-taking app:
In Keep, at the bottom, tap “Add picture”. Then select “choose an image” and choose the photo of your vaccination record or the result of your test.
Tag the note and hit the back button.
Sometimes it’s better to wear the real thing
Digital health cards come in handy in regions where they are accepted, but vacationers will still need to research the special requirements of their destinations.
The coronavirus pandemic: what you need to know
For entry, some states want travelers to upload their health data to their own databases. Hawaii, for example, requires people to upload their proof of inoculation or negative test results into the Safe Travels health form to receive a QR code that allows them to bypass quarantine.
Once you exit an airport, the rules may vary from company to company, including some hotels that require health documents. If this seems overwhelming to you, especially when visiting an unfamiliar location, the most foolproof thing to do is carry the original physical document. Just make sure you keep it inside in a safe place, like a wallet or plastic pouch.